Why We Should Keep God’s Holy Days
Why did God institute the weekly Sabbath and, later, seven ANNUAL Sabbaths? What do they picture? Were God’s Holy Days for ancient Israel only, or are they also for the New Testament Church of God in this generation? God created us for an awesome purpose! That incredible purpose was first revealed when man was created. God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26).
The Bible here reveals that God is reproducing Himself through man. God made us for the purpose of fashioning and molding us into His character image—ultimately to be born as spirit-composed members of His Family! But this creative work takes time. To accomplish this purpose in us, God has allotted 7,000 years—seven millennial “days” (II Pet. 3:8).
During the first 6,000 years, God has allowed humanity
to go its own way, do its own thing, govern itself by its own laws, as
influenced by Satan. During the last 1,000 years, man will be ruled directly
by Jesus Christ here on the earth. Satan will then be completely restrained
from broadcasting his attitudes to people. The Bible reveals that God instituted for His Church certain days that
picture His purpose for human life, and the plan by which He is accomplishing
Weekly Sabbath Pictures God’s Purpose
When God set apart and made holy the seventh-day Sabbath for man (Gen. 2:2-3; Mark 2:27), He gave us a day of rest that has great significance. To His “Church in the wilderness”— ancient Israel (Acts 7:38)–God revealed that Sabbath keeping would be a “sign” between Him and His people (Ex. 31:16-17). This sign is a proof of identity. Keeping the weekly Sabbath reminds us that God is the Creator of all things, including man. It is also a major sign identifying the true people of God!
The Sabbath also pictures to God’s people the soon-coming Millennium, when mankind will experience rest from war, poverty, fear and suffering. This 1,000-year period will be the seventh millennial “day”—the “Sabbath”- of God’s 7,000-year “week.” It is then that the knowledge of God’s purpose for us will fill the earth (Isa. 11:9).
But the keeping of the seventh-day Sabbath has even further significance
and meaning. It also looks forward to the completion of God’s ‘spiritual
creation’ in man. The Sabbath is a type of our future spiritual
‘rest’—of being born into the Kingdom or Family of God! We will no longer be working against our present weaknesses, with spirit-composed bodies, we will never become
tired or weary. We’ll always be alert and active! The Bible also reveals that God set apart and made holy certain other
days of the year in addition to the weekly Sabbath.
Annual Holy Days Picture God’s Master Plan
God has a Master Plan by which He is fulfilling His awesome purpose for mankind. And His Son, Jesus Christ, plays the central role in God’s plan for man. God’s plan is revealed by seven annual festivals. These annual observances give a step-by-step outline of how God is working out His Master Plan for us. Each pictures a great event in God’s plan. It was not until after the Israelites were brought out of Egypt that God revealed the rest of His annual festivals.
As God made the weekly Sabbath for man, so He gave His people seven annual festivals, with their annual Holy Day Sabbaths, when He established the Church, or congregation of Israel, in the wilderness. But Israel, under the covenant made at Sinai, had no promise of receiving God’s Spirit, and therefore could not understand the spiritual meaning of these annual observances.
Regardless of Israel’s lack of understanding, God’s annual Holy Days were ordered to be kept FOREVER! Christ kept them. The New Testament Church, founded by Jesus in A.D. 31, kept them. And God’s Church keeps them today! Just as the weekly Sabbath is a “sign” between God and His people, so are the annual Holy Days (Ex. 31:13). They are the “feasts of the Lord”— “my feasts,”(Lev. 23:2, 4).
These feasts are, as the God of the Old Testament said in Leviticus
23:37-38, to be kept as holy “beside the weekly sabbaths
of the Lord”! God’s festivals, which are
a part of God’s Law, were not done away with when the Old Covenant
ceased to be in force at Christ’s death. The whole story of God’s plan is to be re-enacted year after
year through the
keeping of God’s Holy Days. The observance of these days reminds us of
His great Master Plan and our part in it.
God’s Spiritual Harvests
In the land settled by ancient Israel (later known as Palestine and now occupied by the modern state of Israel), there is a small spring grain harvest followed by a much larger late summer and autumn harvest. These yearly agricultural harvests are symbolic of God’s spiritual “harvests” of mankind!
Today, we can understand from the teachings of Christ and the apostles that God intends the spring festivals to illustrate that all those He has called before Christ’s Second Coming are only the “first fruits”(Jas. 1:18)-only the relatively small beginning of His ‘spiritual harvest’ of individuals into His Family.
The festivals of the much larger autumn harvest season picture God’s
calling of billions into
His Family after Christ’s return. In Leviticus 23, we find a summary of these annual festivals. The first
three, beginning with the Passover, are memorials of the first part of
God’s Master Plan. They picture the first fruits. The
last four festivals look forward to the future great autumn harvest of billions of people into His Family!
Holy Days Preserved for God’s Church
The ancient Israelites, in general, did not understand God’s great purpose for mankind. Nor did they understand the spiritual significance of the steps within God’s Master Plan as pictured by His annual Holy Days. God did not reveal this spiritual understanding to them (Eph. 3:4-5) because it was not yet His time to give them His Spirit. Then why did Christ give God’s Law and Holy Days to ancient Israel?
The Bible tells us that the ‘oracles’—the Old Testament Scriptures, which include the knowledge of God’s weekly Sabbath, annual Sabbaths and festivals, and God’s true calendar—were given to Israel to be passed on from generation to generation. The Israelites, as we read in Acts 7:38, received these to give to us today. But more than seven centuries later, Israel went into Assyrian captivity, losing their identity and their knowledge of God. They did not preserve the Hebrew or Old Testament Scriptures nor God’s calendar. Then who did? The Jews.
The house of Judah which became separated from the nation Israel after the death of Solomon, went into captivity about 120 years later. But Judah retained the knowledge of her identity and God. Recognizing the fact that they had gone into captivity for breaking the Sabbath (Neh. 13:17-18), the Jews became overly strict in its observance. Even though they lacked understanding, they faithfully retained the knowledge of the true Sabbath, and preserved the Old Testament Scriptures and the true calendar.
Notice what Paul, under inspiration asks: “What advantage then hath the Jew?” Then he answers in part: “Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God” (Rom. 3:1-2). God used the Jews to preserve the Hebrew or Old Testament Scriptures, the weekly Sabbath and the calendar by which we may know exactly when to keep God’s Holy Days each year. Of all the tribes of Israel, God entrusted the Jews to be the carriers of this revealed knowledge for the New Testament Church of God today!
All of God’s festivals are listed together in Leviticus 23, starting with the seventh-day Sabbath, a weekly festival. The vital details of God’s Master Plan for fulfilling His great purpose in man will unfold for you!
God’s Seventh-day Sabbath
God’s plan calls for the restoration of His government on earth through His ruling Kingdom, composed of future members of His Family. God’s government is based on His spiritual Law of love. It is love toward God and love toward fellowman. God’s love is further magnified by the Ten Commandments, the first four of which show us how to love God—how we are to worship Him.
The fourth commandment, like the other nine, is an essential part of God’s Law. Keeping God’s seventh-day Sabbath holy is a sign that identifies those who worship God. The Sabbath is a memorial of God’s creation, but the Sabbath also looks forward to the 1000 year Millennium of world peace and the completion of God’s spiritual creation in man. Let’s begin to understand the great meaning involved in keeping the seventh-day Sabbath.
1. On which day of creation week did God rest? Gen. 2:2-3; Ex. 20:11. Did God rest because He was tired from all the work He had done during the previous six days? Isa. 40:28.
COMMENT: God is composed of spirit and never becomes tired, as physical human beings do. Therefore He had no reason to rest except that by resting, God “made” the Sabbath and set an example for humans to follow.
2. Who in the God Family made that very first Sabbath? Col. 1:13-16; Mark 2:27-28.
COMMENT: Jesus Christ is Lord of the Sabbath because He made it! As we have proved in our previous studies, He was the Lord of the Old Testament and the actual Creator of all things. By ceasing to work on the seventh day of creation week, Christ set apart that 24-hour period and every seventh day afterward for a special and holy use. The Sabbath begins at sunset, in the evening, at the close of the sixth day, and ends at sunset, in the evening, at the close of the seventh day. See Leviticus 23:32 for an example of when God begins and ends days.
3. For who did Jesus say the Sabbath was made? Mark 2:27. Who would that include? Exodus 20:8-10, especially verse 10.
COMMENT: “The Sabbath was made for man,” declared Jesus. Every seventh day from creation was set apart by God as time to be specially observed. The Sabbath was to benefit all who would ever live, if they kept it as God intended.
4. How did Christ intend the Sabbath to benefit us? Deut. 5:14. (Notice the word rest.)
COMMENT: The word Sabbath means “rest” in Hebrew, the language in which the Old Testament was written. Physical rest and mental relaxation after a busy week are obvious reasons for keeping the Sabbath. God knew humans would need periodic rest and change from work. But the purpose for keeping God’s Sabbath goes far beyond merely resting on it. The seventh-day Sabbath has to do with God’s great purpose for creating mankind!
We need this time each week in which to have close spiritual contact with God. The Sabbath gives us time to think more about God, to pray, to worship Him, both in private and in fellowship with others and to study the Bible to understand more about God’s awesome purpose for our lives and how to achieve it.
5. Was the observance of the Sabbath day to be a special sign of identification between God and His people? Ex. 31:13, 16-17. Did God also make Sabbath observance a separate covenant with His people? Verse 16. Was it to be a perpetual covenant, binding forever? Verses 16-17.
COMMENT: So that the ancient Israelites would especially remember that God is Creator, Sustainer and Supreme Ruler over all His creation, God singled out Sabbath observance as the one great sign by which they would always remember Him and that they were His chosen people. It was the one commandment that would make Israel especially stand out from all other nations.
God doubly commanded Sabbath observance by making it a separate covenant, or agreement, with His people Israel- AMERICA AND BRITAIN and others as well as ancient Israel and Judah. (The Sabbath was already one of the Ten Commandments God had given them earlier.) It was to be an everlasting covenant—a sign that would identify the people of God of all generations, including “spiritual Israel” today—those with God’s Spirit.
6. Does the Bible plainly reveal that a real Christian is one who has become one of Abraham’s “seed” through Jesus Christ? Gal. 3:28-29; Rom. 4:16.
7. Did Jesus Christ keep the Sabbath? Luke 4:16, 31.
COMMENT: Jesus regularly attended religious services on the Sabbath day. He obeyed His own command to meet for worship services every Sabbath (Lev. 23:3). This is the day He would naturally observe, because He is the One who made the Sabbath and ordained that it be kept holy!
8. Was it also Paul’s custom to keep the Sabbath? Acts 17:1-2. Is there other evidence that the early New Testament Church observed the Sabbath? Acts 13:13-16, 42, 44; 18:1, 4.
COMMENT: There is no question that the early New Testament Church of God observed the seventh-day Sabbath. Those who are obeying God today will also be keeping the same day Jesus, Paul and the entire early Church kept.
9. What is God’s warning to us in Hebrews 3:8-12, 17-19? (Notice the word rest in verses 11 and 18.) Was disobeying God, especially Sabbath breaking, the reason God did not allow an entire generation of Israelites to enter His “rest”? Ezek. 20:12-13, 15-16.
COMMENT: The land of Canaan—the promised “rest” Israel finally entered (Josh. 1:13)–is referred to in the Bible as a type of our spiritual “rest”—of being born into the Kingdom or Family of God and living forever.
10. If we believe and obey God, will we enter God’s “rest”—eternal life in His Kingdom? Hebrews 4:3, first nine words, and verse 11.
COMMENT: The equation is clear: Belief in God equals active obedience. Those who really believe God will be keeping His Sabbath! God’s Sabbath should not be treated lightly or forgotten. We are commanded to “Remember the Sabbath day” (Ex. 20:8) because the Sabbath pictures when we will be born into the Family of God as spirit-composed members of Gods’ Family. We will then be free of all the physical weaknesses and limitations of this human life.
11. Did God command the entire nation of Israel to meet together on the weekly Sabbath? Lev. 23:3. What are we told regarding the assembling of ourselves? Heb. 10:25.
COMMENT: We are to be taught
by the ministry of God’s Church (Eph. 4:11-13). We are learning to keep
God’s Sabbath holy—the day that reminds us of God and His
purpose for mankind!
Most Bible commentators agree that the many passing references to God’s annual festivals in the New Testament indicate that their observance in the early Church was known, accepted—even taken for granted. More importantly, Christ and the Church of God customarily kept the annual festivals: “In the early Christian church the keeping of the festivals together with the whole of the Jewish people was never questioned, so that it needed no special mention” (The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 1, p. 628).
However, it is obvious from a study of the New Testament that God’s annual festivals took on a new significance in the apostolic Church of God. Jesus’ teaching and example gave new understanding about the meaning of these days and how they are to be observed.
Notice what The Encyclopedia Britannica says about the early New Testament Church of God keeping the biblical festivals in a new and different way: “The sanctity of special times [such as Easter and Christmas] was an idea absent from the minds of the first Christians… [who] continued to observe the ‘Jewish’ festivals [of Leviticus 23], though in a new spirit, as commemorations of events which those festivals had foreshadowed” (vol. 8, p. 828, 11th edition, emphasis ours).
1. Who does the Bible say originated these annual festivals, besides the weekly festival of the Sabbath? Lev. 23:1-4. Did God specifically state that His annual feasts were to be observed in addition to the weekly Sabbath? Verses 37-38.
COMMENT: Notice that these are not the “feasts of the Jews” or “feasts of Moses,” as some have thought. They are ‘God’s own feasts’, which God instituted and gave to His people to keep annually.
2. What is the first festival to be observed each year? Lev. 23:5. When did God institute the first Passover? Read and summarize Exodus 12:1-14, 21-27.
COMMENT: The Passover, the first of God’s commanded annual festivals, pictures the beginning—the very first step—in God’s great Master Plan. The Passover was to be a yearly reminder of God’s protecting the Israelites’ firstborn from death in Egypt. It also pictured, in advance, the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ, “our Passover”(I Cor. 5:7; I Pet. 1:18-19), for our law breaking. And a symbolic type of our being spared today from the penalty of breaking God’s law (Rom. 6:23). After Jesus’ death, the Passover, celebrated with the new symbols of unleavened bread and wine, became a yearly memorial of His sacrifice.
3. Did God command that the Passover be kept forever? Ex. 12:14, 24. Did Jesus Christ observe the Passover? John 2:13, 23.
COMMENT: Jesus kept the annual festivals. He, as the God of the Old Testament, was the One who originally gave them to Israel!
4. Did Jesus institute the New Testament Passover, with His 12 disciples present, on the night before His death? Matt. 26:17-20. What was one new command He gave them regarding the observance of the Passover? John 13:1-5, 14-15.
5. Did Peter, at first, refuse to allow Jesus to wash his feet? Verses 6-8. Could Peter have any relationship with Jesus unless he allowed Him to wash his feet? Verse 8. Why did Jesus institute this new observance of foot washing during His last Passover meal? Verses 12-16.
COMMENT: Open-toed sandals were the customary footwear of Jesus’ time, and so the feet would become dusty. Foot washing, upon entering a home, was a menial task that only servants performed. By washing their feet, Jesus was illustrating to His disciples that He had come to earth to serve mankind. Shortly afterward, He proved the extent of His extreme service to this world when He gave His life for the broken laws of all mankind. Foot washing depicts the attitude of humility and service to others that Christ desires everyone to have.
6. Did Jesus plainly command His disciples to wash one another’s feet? John 13:14-15. Were they to teach the world to do likewise? Matt. 28:19-20. Are those who obey Christ’s words by participating in this meaningful ceremony promised a special blessing? John 13:17; 14:23.
7. What completely new way of observing the Passover did Jesus institute shortly before His death? Matt. 26:26-29. What command did He give the disciples regarding this new manner of keeping the Passover? Luke 22:19-20. Were they to teach this to the world? Matt. 28:19-20.
COMMENT: Jesus did not abolish the Passover—He merely changed the symbols used. Instead of annually shedding the blood of a lamb and eating its roasted body, we are now to use unleavened bread and wine. The New Testament Passover is to be kept as an annual memorial of Christ’s death. It reaffirms year by year “till he come” (I Cor. 11:26) true faith in “Christ our Passover” (I Cor. 5:7) for the forgiveness of sins, as symbolized by the drinking of wine.
Eating the broken bread symbolizes His body torn open in dozens of places by scourging until He could not even be recognized! He suffered this torture so we, may have healing of our bodies when we are sick (Isa. 53:5; I Pet. 2:24; Ps. 103:2-3; Jas. 5:14-15)-in addition to the forgiveness of our spiritual sins through His shed blood. And the broken unleavened bread is a reminder to us that it is by “his stripes we are healed.”
As Christ Himself commanded, God’s Church today observes the Passover on the eve of the day of His suffering and death—on the 14th day of the first month of God’s calendar, in the evening, after the beginning of the day. The exact date for the Passover, and all of God’s annual festivals, varies from year to year according to the Roman calendar. To keep these Holy Days see God’s Sacred Calendar in the American And Britains Future Free Reference Section.
8. Did Paul teach New Testament Christians to keep the Passover by taking the new symbols of unleavened bread and wine, as Jesus had done and commanded? I Cor. 5:7-8; 11:23-26.
COMMENT: The Church Jesus built kept the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread—not Easter. (“Easter” in Acts 12:4 in the King James Version is a MISTRANSLATION of the Greek word pascha. It should be rendered “Passover,” as it is in all modern translations.)
9. Will the Passover be kept by Christ and others after He establishes the Kingdom of God on earth? Matt. 26:29; Luke 22:15-16. In the meantime, was the Passover to be kept as a memorial of Christ’s death? I Corinthians 11:25-26.
COMMENT: Jesus commanded His disciples to keep the Passover in remembrance
of Him until He returns. The apostles did keep it, and today, God’s true
Church still keeps the Passover!
Feast of Unleavened Bread
The Passover, the first of God’s commanded annual festivals, pictures the beginning, the very first step, in God’s great Master Plan for mankind. Once we have repented and been forgiven by God, we must come out of this world’s ways (Rev. 18:4)–just as Israel left Egypt, a type of sin (Heb. 11:25-26) That is our part in God’s Master Plan. In the second step in God’s plan the observance of this feast impresses upon us that we must not return to the sins Jesus paid for.
1. What feast did God command the Israelites to keep immediately after the Passover? Ex. 12:17; Lev. 23:6. Were they to keep it just this one time? Ex. 12:17; 13:10.
COMMENT: Notice that the Feast of Unleavened Bread was given by God before the people reached Mt. Sinai—before they even left Egypt. It is also to be kept by all their succeeding generations—forever!
2. For how many days is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to continue? Ex. 12:15; 34:18; Num. 28:16-17; Deut. 16:3-4. Were the first and seventh days set apart as Holy Days—days on which the people were to assemble themselves, much the same as they would on a weekly Sabbath day? Ex. 12:16; Lev. 23:3, 7-8.
COMMENT: The first month of the Hebrew calendar, which God inspired the Jews to preserve for New Testament Christians, was called Abib or, later, Nisan. It falls sometime during the months of March and April of the Roman calendar today. The Feast of Unleavened Bread begins on the 15thof Abib, the day after the Passover. It continues for seven days until the 21st of Abib. Both the 15th and the 21st are special Sabbaths—days of rest and worship.
At this point it would be well to distinguish between God’s annual festivals
or feasts, and His annual Holy Days or Sabbaths. God’s Master Plan includes
seven annual festivals. Two of these, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and
the Feast of Tabernacles, are seven days long. There are also seven annual
Holy Days, which are Sabbaths of rest from regular work. Each of these
Holy Days occur on, or during, a festival (the Feast of Unleavened Bread
has two). But the Passover, the first of the festivals, is not a Holy Day
or Sabbath. (See chart below.)
|Passover||Unl. Bread||Pentecost||Trumpets||Atonement||Tabernacles||Last Great Day|
3. Were the Israelites to put all leaven and leavened food out of their homes and property, and keep it out during the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread? Ex. 12:15-19; 13:7.
COMMENT: A leavening agent is any substance used to cause dough to rise by fermentation. Yeast, baking soda and baking powder are leavening agents.
4. Is leaven clearly a symbol for law breaking? Matt. 16:6, 11-12; Luke 12:1; I Cor. 5:8.
COMMENT: Leaven is often referred to in the Bible as a type of sin. Leaven puffs up—and so does breaking God’s laws. Unleavened bread is a flat bread that contains no leavening agent, and therefore typifies the absence of sin. And since seven is God’s special number signifying completion and perfection, the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread remind us that God wants His people to strive to put the breaking of His laws completely out of their lives.
5. Does God command His people to eat unleavened bread during this festival? Ex. 12:15, 19-20; Lev. 23:6.
COMMENT: The Israelites were not merely to remove all leavening and leavened foods from their property. That would have only symbolized putting away sin. They were commanded to eat unleavened bread during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This act of eating unleavened bread symbolizes the opposite of law breaking— obedience to God!
6. Upon repentance and baptism, Christ’s sacrifice blots out all of one’s past offences. When Paul asked if we should continue in break God’s laws, what did he answer? Rom. 6:15-16. What was his command? Verses 11-13.
COMMENT: Christ died so we would not have to remaining dead forever (Rom. 6:23). After repentance and baptism, God expects us to obey His Law—to “unleaven” our lives for Christ is not the minister of sin (Gal. 2:17).
7. Did Paul inspired by God’s Spirit, say we should keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread? I Cor. 5:8.
8. What did Paul say that clearly shows the Church of God at Corinth was, at the time he wrote, keeping the Feast of Unleavened Bread? Verse 7. Notice the words “as you are unleavened.”
COMMENT: The Apostle Paul was telling the Corinthian church members to put out spiritual leaven, just as they had already put out all physical leaven in preparation for this festival. They were to keep the Feast not only with unleavened bread, but also with the spiritually “unleavened” attitude of sincerity and truth.
9. Does God want us to forsake this world’s ways? Rev. 18:4. Are we to continually put lawbreaking out of our lives as it comes up? Heb. 12:1, 4.
COMMENT: If we are to become members of God’s Family, we
must prove that we will obey God here and now by getting the spiritual
leaven out of our lives! This is our part in God’s
great Master Plan. Every spring the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread specially
reminds God’s Church of the continual need to keep God’s
commandments. It is a time when they symbolically renew their resolve to
live in harmony with God’s Law—to rededicate their lives to continual spiritual
growth and overcoming.
Pentecost—Feast of First Fruits
God knows that to successfully put law breaking out of our lives and keep it out, our own human willpower and abilities are not enough. We need the spiritual power of God’s Spirit to help us keep God’s spiritual Law. This is the third step in God’s Master Plan, pictured by the third annual festival, the day of Pentecost, also called the Feast of Weeks or Feast of First Fruits.
1. What were God’s instructions regarding this festival? Lev. 23:15-17, 20. Was this feast a Holy Day, or Sabbath of rest, on which the people were to assemble? Verse 21. Was it to be kept by God’s people every year forever? Same verse.
COMMENT: At this point we need to understand the symbolism of a ceremony associated with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and how it ties in with the third annual festival. The meaning of this ceremony is important, although it no longer occurs since the Romans destroyed the Temple in A.D. 70.
2. What kind of offering had to be presented to God before the spring harvest could begin? Verses 9-11, 14.
COMMENT: The physical harvests help us understand that God is not dealing with the vast majority of the world today. God is calling only thousands into His Church before Christ’s Second Coming. God intends the spring festivals to illustrate His Church are the “first fruits”(Jas. 1:18)–the relatively small beginning of His spiritual harvest of mankind into His Family.
The spring harvest began : On the morning of the first day of the week (Sunday) during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a sheaf of newly cut barley, cut the night before, was prepared and brought to the priest, who waved it in the air to be accepted by God. This was called the “wavesheaf offering” and represented the first of the first fruits harvest.
Once the wavesheaf was offered, the harvest could begin. The spring harvest ended by the time of the Feast of First Fruits, 50 days later. (The New Testament name for this festival, Pentecost, literally means “fiftieth [day].”) The people gathered on this annual Sabbath to give God thanks for the first fruits of the year’s crops He had given them. Now let’s see the interesting connection between the wavesheaf offering and, Jesus Christ.
3. Who was the first to be resurrected from the dead into God’s Family? Acts 26:23. Was He therefore the first of the first fruits of God’s spiritual harvest? I Cor. 15:20, 23; Col. 1:18. Therefore, are those God the Father has called before Christ’s return clearly the first fruits of God’s great Master Plan? Jas. 1:18; Rom. 8:23.
4. After Christ was resurrected from the dead, did He have to ascend to His Father in heaven? John 20:17. On that same day after returning from heaven, could His disciples then touch Him? Compare Matthew 28:9 with John 20:19-20, 27-28.
COMMENT: This was the first day of the week (Sunday) during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It was on the very same morning that the wavesheaf was offered that Jesus Christ was accepted by His Father as the spiritual “wavesheaf” offering in heaven! Christ therefore fulfilled the symbolism of the Old Testament wavesheaf offering. He was the first resurrected Son of God—the first harvested product of God’s Master Plan. He became the firstborn Son of God—the first human to complete the process. But Jesus could not have become our elder brother without possessing an all-important ingredient from God— something we all must have if we are to become Spirit Beings.
5. Could Jesus do any spiritual works, including obedience to God, with just His human strength? John 5:30; 8:28. Where did He get the necessary power? John 14:10, last part.
COMMENT: The Father “dwelt” in Jesus through God’s Spirit!
6. Did Christ promise the same spiritual help to His disciples? John 14:16. What is the “Comforter”? Verse 26.
7. On what day did the disciples actually receive God’s Spirit-His mind? Acts 2:1-4. Did they become members of God’s spiritual Church? I Cor.12:12-14.
COMMENT: Fifty days after Christ was accepted in heaven, God’s Spirit
was given to the disciples just as Jesus had promised. It was on the day
of Pentecost that God sent His Spirit to begin His Church—to
strengthen the first fruits He was beginning to call into His Church, symbolically
represented by the two “wave loaves” mentioned in Leviticus 23:17, 20. The New Testament festival of Pentecost is now a memorial that commemorates
the founding of the New Testament Church of God through the receiving of
God’s Spirit. It was on the day of Pentecost in A.D. 31 that the initial
fortiori of God’s spiritual harvest began to be prepared by His Spirit
for God’s Family.
Feast of Trumpets
But the "first fruits" cannot be brought into God’s Family un till they are made spirit. (John 3:3-8) That will not occur until Jesus Christ comes again, which brings us to the fourth step in God’s Master Plan. The Feast of Trumpets portrays a pivotal event in God’s plan. This festival not only pictures the coming of Christ to resurrect and change the first fruits, it also pictures the terrible time of world war just ahead and the intervention of Jesus Christ to save humanity from total annihilation, as well as to establish the Kingdom of God on earth! Let’s understand exactly how this festival fits into God’s great Master Plan.
1. When is the fourth annual festival to be observed? Lev. 23:23-25. Is this another annual Sabbath of rest from one’s regular work? Verses 24-25. Are God’s people commanded to meet together before Him on this Holy Day? Verse 24.
COMMENT: The number seven in God’s plan signifies completion and perfection. The seventh month of God’s calendar contains the final four festivals, picturing the completion of God’s Master Plan for mankind. The festival that occurs on the first day of this month marks the beginning of the final events in God’s plan.
2. Was this festival to be a memorial of blowing of trumpets? Verse 24.
COMMENT: It is from this ceremony that the Feast of Trumpets draws its name. There is a great deal of symbolic meaning tied in with the blowing of these trumpets—especially nearing the end of man’s rule on earth, which we’re living in right now. Trumpets were blown to announce God’s festivals, as well as to call God’s people to assembly. Trumpets were also used as an alarm of invading armies and impending warfare. This terrifying sound filled the people of ancient Israel with fear, because they knew the horror of war was imminent! It is this warning of war that sets apart the Feast of Trumpets from God’s other festivals.
3. When did Jesus say that God’s coming Kingdom would be established— wouldn’t it be in a time of world war? Matt. 24:3, 6-8; Luke 21:31. Would man then have the power to destroy all human life from the face of the earth? Matt. 24:21-22.
4. What does the book of Revelation say regarding the blowing of supernatural trumpets shortly before the return of Jesus Christ? Rev. 8:1-2, 6.
COMMENT: The seventh seal that covered the scroll (Rev. 5:1), when opened, disclosed seven angels with seven trumpets representing seven consecutive colossal world events. These are to be physical punishments from God to warn the nations not to harden their hearts further against Him. The last three trumpet plagues (also called “woes”) specifically picture three phases of catastrophic world war. At the third, mankind will be saved from extinction by the Second Coming of Jesus Christ!
5. Will those who turn to God be protected from these trumpet plagues? Rev. 3:10; 7:2-3; 12:14. Is it for the sake of the ‘elect’ that Christ will intervene in world affairs to cut short the time of great trouble and rescue mankind from nuclear annihilation? Matt. 24:22.
COMMENT: The ‘elect’ of God are the first fruits of His great Master Plan. They are the ones God has called out of this world to be the “first fruits harvest” of the Family He is creating.
6. Did Jesus promise to send His angels to gather together His elect at the blast of a great trumpet? Verses 30-31. Is the sounding of this trumpet the time of the resurrection of the dead in Christ? I Thess. 4:16-17; I Cor. 15:51-52; Rev. 11:15-18. Is this trumpet the seventh and final one of the seven introduced in Revelation 8? I Cor. 15:52.
COMMENT: At the sound of the seventh trumpet, announcing the return of Jesus Christ, the first fruits of God’s plan will be resurrected and changed—born as spirit beings into the Family of God! God will then have brought the smaller spiritual harvest of individuals into His Family. They will then begin to help Christ rule the earth (Rev. 20:6) and bring in the much greater spiritual harvest during the 1000 years of world peace to follow Christ’s return. The last three festivals picture the details of how this will be accomplished.
Day at Atonement
What about Satan? What happens to him after Christ returns? The fifth step in God’s Master Plan, the Day of Atonement, reveals the answer. It pictures Christ deposing Satan from his present position as world ruler (II Cor. 4:4) and Satan’s removal to a place completely away from mankind. He will be banished from the earth for 1,000 years, no longer able to deceive the nations and influence man. After Satan’s removal, the rest of humanity will be reconciled— made at one—with God. Let’s understand the meaning in the symbolism of this unique fifth festival of God.
1. What annual Sabbath follows only nine days after the Feast of Trumpets? Lev. 23:27; 16:29-31. Are God’s people commanded to assemble before Him on this day? Lev. 23:27.
2. How are we to observe the Day of Atonement? Verse 32. How do we “afflict” our body on this day? Isa. 58:3; Ezra 8:21.
COMMENT: The Day of Atonement is perhaps the most unusual Holy Day, as far as what God expects us to do. It is the one day of the year on which God commands us to fast—to abstain from food and water (Ex. 34:28; Esther 4:16)–for 24 hours, from sunset on the ninth day of the month to sunset on the tenth day—Lev. 23:32).
Fasting for spiritual reasons at any time of the year should be for the purpose of humbling ourselves—to draw closer to God and His way (Isa. 58:6-11). Fasting on the Day of Atonement is a vivid reminder of the state of mind of humility, earnestly seeking God —a condition this world will have been brought to by the catastrophic events leading to Jesus Christ’s return!
3. Does the Day of Atonement also differ from all other annual Holy Days in that no work of any kind is to be done on it? Num. 29:7; Lev.16:29. Why is this day to be kept so solemnly? Lev. 23:28.
COMMENT: What does the word atonement mean? Webster says to atone means to “set at one.” To join in one—to form by uniting. This day actually symbolizes God and man being set at one: literally the Day of At-one-ment! But God and mankind cannot be fully at one—in full agreement—until Satan is restrained.
The 16th chapter of Leviticus details what God told the Levitical priesthood to do on the Day of Atonement. These rituals, although no longer performed, reveal another step in God’s plan to restore His government on earth and to bring knowledge of His plan to everyone.
4. Was the high priest to make a special sin offering once a year to atone for all the sins of Israel? Lev. 16:32-34. Was this done on the Day of Atonement? Verses 29-30.
5. But before the high priest made this atonement, did he take two goats and then cast lots to determine who each would represent? Lev. 16:7-8. Was one to represent Christ, the Lord? Verse 8. Who was the other goat to represent? Same verse. Was he to be banished? Verse 10.
COMMENT: The English word “scapegoat” is not a correct translation of the Hebrew word God inspired. Most Bibles with marginal renderings show that the original word was azazel. Azazel among the early desert dwellers in the Sinai referred to Satan!
6. Was the goat representing Christ offered as a sin offering for all the people? Verses 15-16. Were the sins of the people symbolically placed on the head of the other goat, representing Satan, which was then taken into the wilderness? Verses 21-22.
COMMENT: Jesus Christ "atoned" for our law breaking when He took the penalty of death—Rom. 6:23) upon Himself by sacrificing His sinless life for us. But the real cause of those sins is Satan (John 8:42-44). In this Levitical ritual, all of man’s Satan-inspired sins were symbolically put right back on Satan’s head where they belong! When Jesus Christ returns, the blame for our sins will be placed squarely on Satan, who will then be removed from our presence. Notice the fulfillment of this part of God’s Plan as revealed by Jesus Christ in the book of Revelation:
7. What will be done to Satan after the Second Coming of Jesus Christ? Rev. 20:1-2. Where will he be cast? Verse 3. Also notice Revelation 18:1-2.
COMMENT: The “bottomless pit” or abyss was pictured by the desert wilderness where the azazel goat was banished. Satan and his demons will be completely restrained by Christ from further leading mankind astray. No longer will Satan be able to broadcast (Eph. 2:2) his evil attitudes.
At Satan’s chaining by an angel of God (symbolically the “fit man”
of Leviticus 16:21), the minds of men, formerly kept spiritually closed
by Satan, will be opened by God! For the first time, humanity will be able to understand God’s Plan. People will then begin to realize their wrong ways and
desire to repent and receive forgiveness. Only then will
man become at one with Christ and the Father, as pictured by the Day of
Feast of Tabernacles
1. What festival occurs only five days after the Day of Atonement? Lev. 23:34; Deut. 16:13-15. 2. Does this seven-day feast begin with a Holy Day on which all ordinary work is forbidden, and on which people are to gather before God? Lev. 23:35. Did God command that this annual festival be kept forever? Verse 41.
COMMENT: The Feast of Tabernacles was also called the Feast of Ingathering (Ex. 23:16; 34:22) because it celebrated the summer and early autumn harvest (Lev. 23:39).
3. What is the theme for the annual observance of the Feast of Tabernacles? Deut. 16:14-15. Does God say that good food should be eaten to increase your happiness during this feast? Deut. 14:26.
COMMENT: The Feast of Tabernacles, picturing the sixth step in God’s Master Plan, it is a time of great rejoicing! For ancient Israel, it was a time of rejoicing because the abundant winter’s store was taken in just before the Feast. But in the Millennium, which this feast pictures, the happiness and prosperity portrayed by the Feast of Tabernacles will exist worldwide under the rule of Jesus Christ. Obedience to God’s way of life will make the world a literal paradice!
4. Are God’s people to live in —temporary dwellings—during the Feast? Lev. 23:42.
COMMENT: A “tabernacle” or “booth” is a temporary dwelling. God commanded the ancient Israelites to live in temporary shelters made of tree branches (verse 40) while observing the Feast of Tabernacles. For God’s people who attend the Feast of Tabernacles today, motel or hotel room would qualify as a temporary dwelling.
God intends the Feast of Tabernacles to separate and free His people from the world. Living in temporary dwellings for an entire week—away from their everyday surroundings, jobs and most negative influences—God’s people enjoy a tiny foretaste of the universal freedom, and peace that will exist in the Millennium when Satan is gone and God’s Spirit is leading all of humanity (Joel 2:28, 32). These are days of continuous, genuine fellowship and just plain good fun! Thousands of God’s church and their families gather at feast sites around the world to demonstrate now, by the way they live together in harmony, what today’s unhappy world will become after Christ returns.
But just as the Feast of Tabernacles is a physical feast filled with rejoicing, it is also a spiritual feast of education and preparation. Members of God’s Church receive instruction from God’s ministers through inspiring sermons to help them further prepare to rule and teach with Christ during the 1000 years of coming world peace.
5. After Jesus Christ defeats the warring nations at His return and establishes God’s government over the earth, will the nations begin to come to Him for instruction in God’s way of life? Mic. 4:1-2. Will the whole world finally come to understand God’s way to peace, happiness, prosperity and future membership in the Family of God. Isa. 11:9; Jer. 31:34.
COMMENT: Christ’s education program for the entire world will bring about a new civilization based on God’s way of life—His Law of love—resulting in great physical and spiritual blessings.
6. But what will happen to those nations that at first refuse to keep the Feast of Tabernacles and refuse to obey God Zech. 14:16-17. And if they still won’t obey? Verses 18-19.
COMMENT: Christ will re-educate the people of the world through His annual festivals. The world will come to know that God’s Plan pictures the way to physical and spiritual blessings. Those who stubbornly refuse to keep the Feast of Tabernacles will suffer from drought until they submit to God.
7. Is there to be any end to the increase of God’s government? Isa.9:7.
COMMENT: World population will increase rapidly in the Millennium. Eventually
billions will be spiritually converted! The great “autumn
harvest” of humans will be gathered into the Kingdom of God— as members of the ruling Family of God during the Millennium. By the end of the thousand years, the great Family of God will be ready
for the final step in God’s Master Plan. Even greater accomplishments
lie ahead after the 1000 year Millennium!
The Last Great Day
What about all those who have lived and died without ever being called by God including, perhaps, most of your loved ones today who never had an opportunity to know and really understand God’s purpose and plan for mankind? Are they lost forever? The answer is revealed in the meaning of the Last Great Day—the seventh and last of God’s annual festivals—the feast that pictures the seventh step in God’s great Master Plan.
1. Is it God’s will that all who have ever lived come to the knowledge of His plan? II Pet. 3:9; I Tim. 2:4.
COMMENT: In His loving concern for all mankind, God has planned for everyone who has ever lived to receive an opportunity to become a member of God’s Family, just as the already spiritually called have been given their opportunity. Just as the week is not complete without the seventh-day Sabbath, God’s Master Plan is not complete without His seventh and final annual festival.
The number seven in the Bible signifies completion and perfection. This seventh festival of God reveals the perfection of God’s great Master Plan, that God will extend beyond the1000 year Millennium.
2. Was there an eighth day of worship immediately following the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles?Lev. 23:36, 39.
COMMENT: The last annual Sabbath or Holy Day is observed immediately after the Feast of Tabernacles. But because of its close proximity to this seven-day Feast, it was associated with the Feast of Tabernacles and was called the “eighth day.” It came to be known as “the last day, that great day of the feast” (John 7:37). The Last Great Day is clearly a separate festival and Holy Day.
The Last Great Day pictures the completion of God’s Plan. That is the Great White Throne Judgment period after the Millennium. Revelation 20:5 shows that a second resurrection will occur after the 1000 years of peace, and verses 11-12 reveal that those in this resurrection to human life, who died never having been called to participate in God’s plan, will then be given their opportunity to become members of God’s Family.
These individuals will be given enough time to learn God’s way of peace, just as we have opportunity to do today. Those who continue to live God’s way of life, developing the character of God, will be changed from flesh and blood to spirit at the end of this period, which apparently will last 100 years (Isa. 65:20).
3. How did Jesus refer to this special “day”or period for these people who have yet to hear and understand God’s wonderful plan? Matt. 11:20-24; 12:41-42.
COMMENT: Christ mentioned the people of Tyre and Sidon, Sodom, Nineveh in Jonah’s time and finally the Queen of the south. All of these examples of people who lived in different generations are compared to those of Jesus’ day, the vast majority of whom did not understand or believe Christ’s message. Jesus tells us that they all will be resurrected with the generation that lived during His time!
Jesus gave enough examples of people living at widespread times to prove that most of humanity will be alive at the same time on this earth. There will be pre-Flood men and women, all 12 tribes of Israel, those who lived during the Middle Ages and the vast majority living now. Even babies and children who died untimely deaths will be resurrected then. They will all be in the second resurrection because they had not been called by God during their first life.
The ancient peoples Jesus Christ mentioned in Matthew 11 and 12 would have repented if He had personally come to them in their day. And they will repent when resurrected and given access to God’s Spirit after the Millennium.
The Bible shows that the vast majority of those who ever lived will
finally be born into God’s Family at the end of this coming period,
pictured by the Last Great Day. God’s Master Plan for mankind will then be complete. Then the spirit-composed members of God’s great Family can look
forward to the wonderful opportunities
in ruling the universe under God our Father and Jesus Christ our elder
Christ the Focus of God’s Holy Days
Through the years, God’s Church has grown in the understanding of the spiritual meaning of God’s Holy Days. Unlike the days commonly observed by traditional Christianity today, God’s Holy days reveal His great purpose for mankind and how He is accomplishing it.
We learned that Christ, is fashioning us into God’s spiritual character image to become members of His Kingdom, as pictured by the weekly Sabbath. We also learned that God’s annual festivals not only teach us His Master Plan, they explain that Jesus Christ is “our Passover” (I Cor. 5:7). It is by “putting on Christ" that we put breaking God’s law out of our lives (Rom. 13:13-14), as pictured by the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Christ is the first of the “first fruits,” and it was 50 days after His resurrection that He sent God’s Spirit on the day of Pentecost. God’s Spirit was sent to those who the Father had called, enabling them to obey His Law, successfully overcome in their lives and grow spiritually.
Christ will return to earth to intervene in world affairs (pictured by the Feast of Trumpets), resurrect His first fruits, and rule as King of kings, putting down the rule of Satan, as portrayed by the Day of Atonement. With the influence of Satan and his demons gone, all mankind will have the opportunity to become “at one”with Christ.
Christ is coming to set up the government of God on earth, bringing world peace and prosperity—pictured by the Feast of Tabernacles. Thousands of millions will be born into the Family of God during the Millennium. Finally, Christ will resurrect everyone who has ever lived, but never heard or understood the truth, in the last great step in God’s plan—the Last Great Day!
Summary, A. C. Study. Free Library Copy
Note: If you would like to begin observing God’s Holy Day’s, see God’s Holy Days calendar in the America And Britain’s Future Free Reference Sections.
Note: If on a rare occasion you are unable to take the Passover on the appointed date there is provision to take this at a later date specified. The second Passover is on the 14th of Iyay, which is 30 days following the date of the first Passover, observed the night before.
6 Now there were certain men who were defiled by a human corpse, so that they could not keep the Passover on that day; and they came before Moses and Aaron that day. 7 And those men said to him, "We became defiled by a human corpse. Why are we kept from presenting the offering of the LORD at its appointed time among the children of Israel?" 8 And Moses said to them, "Stand still, that I may hear what the LORD will command concerning you." 9 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 10 "Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If anyone of you or your posterity is unclean because of a corpse, or is far away on a journey, he may still keep the LORD’s Passover. 11 On the fourteenth day of the second month, at twilight, they may keep it. They shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 12 They shall leave none of it until morning, nor break one of its bones. According to all the ordinances of the Passover they shall keep it. NKJV
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