For most people living in the world and following the Gregorian calendar, knowing the day and date is a simple matter. It can be heard on any radio or TV broadcast. Your friends, neighbors, work companions and local businesses will all confirm the day’s date and name.
Yet upon some islands in the South Pacific it is not so simple for everyone. Over the last 200 years there has been a bit of a “tug of war” over an imaginary line called the 180th meridian, as to whether they belong to the eastern time zone, or the western time zone. Since the day begins “in the east” and ends in the “west” this means the east is one day ahead of the west. This has affected Sabbath keepers who see great importance in worshipping their Creator on the day He blessed and sanctified.
A quick look at history reveals that missionaries began arriving in Tonga, Samoa and other Islands in the early years of the 1800’s. These were mainly from the London Missionary Society as well as Wesleyan Missionaries. Traveling around Africa’s Cape and on to Australia, they simply continued counting days as any traveller would, bringing the eastern time count to the Islands. And since these Protestant missionaries worshipped on Sunday, the first day of the week, Sunday was the day they taught new Christians to regard as “Sabbath” in these Islands. In 1884 the Prime Meridian Conference took place in Washington, D.C. which named Greenwich, England as the Prime Meridian., or longitude line “O”. This placed the 180th longitude exactly opposite to the Prime Meridian.
Now the “tug of war” began on the islands. Pressure was placed on the Islands east of the 180th to change their day count to match the Americas, which would put them a whole day behind their neighbors on the west side of the 180th. The Samoan islands made the change in 1892 by celebrating two Mondays (two July 4ths) that year. One Island group refused to change however, and that was the Tongan Islands. In spite of being on the “wrong side” of the 180th they remained in the eastern hemisphere.
More recently many of the Islands that switched sides in the late 1800’s have now decided to return to their original time count and unite with their neighbors just west of the 180th in their day count.
Adventist missionaries began to visit the Pacific Islands in the 1890’s, after the Prime Meridian was set, but before the island nations settled into their positions concerning the 180th. Samoa had just made their switch in 1892 when the first missionary Adventists arrived from America, so there was no problem, as it matched the day count in America. Adventists assumed Tonga would also switch to western time, so they simply continued keeping Saturday following American time in Tonga as well. It matched days as they were then counted in Samoa. But the Tongan nation itself remained on Eastern Time, that meant Adventists were keeping Sabbath on Sunday, the first day of the recognized week in Tonga.
The problem thickens as the twenty-first century rolls around. The Islands that were pulled into the western hemisphere due to the meridian count now choose to reunite with their neighbors on the west side of the 180th meridian and go back to the eastern day count. To do this they had to reverse the “added day” by “subtracting” a day, thus once again being the first to begin each new day on a round world, instead of the last. Yet as each Island group returns to the eastern hemisphere, the Adventist leadership hold on to the American day count for their Sabbath. This causes more and more Islands in the South Pacific where Adventists are keeping Sunday, the first day of the recognized week, along with all the other Christians.
The underlying reasoning in the arguments for Adventist to keep Sunday in the South Pacific are based on seeing the 180th meridian as THE line where the day changes no matter what governments decide as to where the actual date line should be. This 180th line becomes almost a divine imperative to determine the original “creation week” and to depart from it is to disregard the creation week established at the beginning of time. Though allowances were made for Fuji and other countries where a small segment of the country straddle the 180th, this dedication to the 180th meridian refuses to accept any deviation made by countries who are not actually straddling the 180th but who chose to be in a different hemisphere than that determined by the 180th for their day count. Since keeping the Creation Sabbath is very important to Seventh-day Adventists a look at world conditions in the distant past is important.
IN THE BEGINNING
When God was laying the foundations of the earth in the establishment of the original order of its existence, and the enactment of those laws which govern its operations, he said:
(Gen. 2:5,6) ” The LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, ...But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.
(Gen. 7:11,12) In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.
When God created the earth, all the continents were one land mass (Genesis 1:9).
There are many scientific studies showing this to be true though they will explain it’s formation and breaking apart as occurring over millions of years, whereas we believe in the Biblical account of God's Creation and the original landmass being dramatically changed during flood.
for one such study)
Biblically we know the earth’s surface and atmosphere were greatly altered during and immediately after the flood.
Yet at Creation there were no huge oceans separating the different land masses from each other as we know it today. There was one large land which scripture called, "earth", (modern scientists call it Pangaea), and one sea or ocean. Thus, at creation there was no issue with a “dateline”. The day began at the extreme east of the land mass and progressed to the extreme west. The natural barrier of the sea marked the dividing point where the day began on the east coast and ended on the west coast. The day was marked by a very distinct barrier – the sea.
Yet, the “dayline” still existed. Anyone sailing across the sea in the pre-flood era, would encounter the same one day difference sailors experience today when crossing the Pacific Ocean.
People have to make the change of one day in their reckoning as they pass from the close of the circuit of day to its beginning or from the beginning of the circuit of day back to its close. They do not and cannot simply observe the seventh part of time. Were that the plain teaching of the sanctified seventh day, every time someone crossed the sea they would completely alter the week, thus causing mass confusion with those who didn’t cross the sea. However, sea travel was probably not very important in a time when all the land of earth was one continent.
Eden was apparently a “mountain” in the center of earth’s landmass, from which flowed the life giving river which divided into four and flowed in the four directions of earth. Genesis two, says one river, the Gihon, heads south through Ethiopia, another, the Hiddekel heads east beyond Assyria. This indicates that Africa was part of the one supercontinent, for the Gihon River could not have crossed the Red Sea. On the east side of Eden the Garden of Eden was especially created for Adam and Eve. (See Gen.2)
The land mass was much greater then, and the ocean much smaller, as somehow much of the water was in the “fountains of the deep” kept in store under the surface of the land. These fountains of the deep were broken up during the flood. (See. Gen. 7:11) During the flood (or some claim after the flood pointing to Gen. 10:25) this land mass was broken up into large continents, as well as smaller pieces of land moving or being separated by flooding from the main bodies, or being formed by volcanic action. Now the question remains, since the continental breakup where is the east end of “earth” where the day begins?
Most often when the Bible uses the word “earth” it is not speaking of the name of our planet but rather it is speaking of "habitable land."
The east "end" of this "habitable land" is where the day begins, since the sun brings day from east to west.
God has not defined or surveyed any line from north to south and called it "degree number this or that." But he has told us where the “day spring” is.
“Have you commanded the morning since thy days; [and] caused the dayspring to know his place, that it might take hold of the ends of the earth, (Job 38:12,13)
“Those who live at the ends of the earth stand in awe of your wonders. From where the sun rises to where it sets, you inspire shouts of joy.” (Ps. 65:8)
Since the American continents broke away and moved west of the main land mass we know that the dayline is somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, not in the Atlantic Ocean. The day comes westward from Asia. The furthest eastern point of the Asian continent reaches the Behring Straits. From this we can rest assured that Saturday, Sabbath as known by the global world is the correct Sabbath – the seventh day and we need not be confused by talk of datelines.
However, the question still remains concerning the islands of the Pacific.
The question may be answered by looking to see what tectonic “plate” they are on.
See Tectonic Plates
It appears they are on the same “plate” as Australia, though sitting on the very edge. An ocean trench along the edge of the plate is called the Tongan Trench. Samoa is sitting on the topmost right corners. Thus they are part of the eastern “edge” of the world. The Tongan islands, Samoan Islands are in the eastern hemispher. They are definitely NOT part of the “American” plates.
Very interesting is the fact that tectonic “plates” that are entirely ocean are all in the Pacific Ocean. Most likely this is the original Ocean, or "sea" at Creation.
When the earth is made new there will be no huge oceans separating continents, it will be restored to it's Eden Glory.