- 30th October 2018
- Christian Living, Doctrine, God
What are the most important days on the Christian calendar? Most would say Christmas and Easter. But the first followers of Jesus Christ observed NEITHER of these days. They followed Christ's example and observed the SAME Holy Days that Jesus Christ Himself observed! The Holy Days are not obsolete "Jewish" observances, but in fact picture, in sequence, the destiny God has planned for ALL humanity. God Himself ordained these Holy Days for ALL of His people to observe.
Sadly, most of us just "grew up" in Protestant churches—or in Catholicism—and basically took for granted all that we were taught about God, Christ and religion. Very few people usually bother—even after reaching adulthood—to actually study and genuinely prove WHY they believe what they believe. It just seems easier to "follow the crowd" and go along with whatever we have been taught. Have you been like this? Have you carelessly ASSUMED that the Bible teaches us to observe Christmas and Easter? Have you assumed that Christ, our example, and the original inspired Apostolic Church observed Christmas and Easter? If so, you could not have been more WRONG! For nearly all honest theologians and historians freely acknowledge that Christmas and Easter were injected into "Christianity" many years after the death of the original Apostles! Under the article "Christmas," the Encyclopedia Britannica states: "in the Christian Church, the festival of the nativity of Jesus Christ. The history of this feast coheres so closely with that of Epiphany (q.v.), that what follows must be read in connection with the article under that heading…. The great church adopted Christmas much later than Epiphany; and before the 5th century there was no general consensus of opinion as to when it should come in the calendar, whether on the 6th of January, or the 25th of March, or the 25th of December…. In 1644 the English puritans forbade any merriment or religious services by act of Parliament, on the ground that it was a heathen festival, and ordered it to be kept as a fast. Charles II revived the feast, but the Scots adhered to the Puritan view" (vol. 6, 11th ed., pp. 293–294). The Catholic Encyclopedia tells us: "Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church. Irenaeus and Tertullian omit it from their lists of feasts; Origen, glancing perhaps at the discreditable imperial Natalitia, asserts (in Lev. Hom. viii in Migne, P.G., XII, 495) that in the Scriptures sinners alone, not saints, celebrate their birthday…. In England, Christmas was forbidden by Act of Parliament in 1644; the day was to be a fast and a market day; shops were compelled to be open; plum puddings and mince pies condemned as heathen. The conservatives resisted; at Canterbury blood was shed; but after the Restoration Dissenters continued to call Yuletide 'Fooltide'" (vol. 3, pp. 724, 728).
REJECTING the Example of Christ and the ApostlesA vital key to remember in trying to understand what happened is to realize that the vast majority of "Christian" priests and scholars have NOT seriously tried to follow the example of Christ and the original Apostles! As the professing Christian Church grew in the Roman Empire, they tried to make their religion more "convenient" to the pagans around them in an attempt to win them over, and also, at times, in an attempt to avoid persecution. As Dr. Rufus M. Jones points out: "If by any chance Christ Himself had been taken by His later followers as the model and pattern of the new way, and a serious attempt had been made to set up His life and teaching as the standard and norm for the Church, Christianity would have been something vastly different from what it became. Then 'heresy' would have been, as it is not now, deviation from His way, His teaching, His spirit, His kingdom…. What we may properly call 'Galilean Christianity' had a short life, though there have been notable attempts to revive it and make it live again, and here and there spiritual prophets have insisted that anything else than this simple Galilean religion is 'heresy'; but the main line of historic development has taken a different course and has marked the emphasis very differently" (The Church's Debt to Heretics, pp. 15–16). And mainstream Protestant author, Jesse Lyman Hurlbut—writing about the period between 313ad and 476ad—acknowledges: "The forms and ceremonies of paganism gradually crept into the worship. Some of the old heathen feasts became church festivals with change of name and worship. About 405ad images of saints and martyrs began to appear in the churches, at first as memorials, then in succession revered, adored, and worshipped" ( The Story of the Christian Church, p. 79). So, although the early "Christian" leaders were accommodative to the pagans around them, God warned our spiritual forefathers against following the customs of the surrounding heathen nations saying: "Do NOT inquire after their gods, saying 'How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.' You shall NOT worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates have they done to their gods" (Deuteronomy 12:30–31). Jesus Christ warned the religious leaders of His day, "All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition" (Mark 7:9). Notice carefully Jesus' comment about rejecting the commandment of God by keeping human tradition. This is very definitely the case when we consider which days God made holy. For virtually no one keeps the days introduced by the pagans and also observes the biblical Holy Days that God commands and which Christ and the Apostolic Church observed. In effect, you have to CHOOSE. You have to choose between observing the "mass of Christ"— which pictures Christ as a helpless little child, and is surrounded by pagan concepts of the Yule log, the Christmas tree, Santa Claus and Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer—OR, on the other hand, observing the biblical Holy Days that picture, step-by-step, the awesome PLAN that God is working out here on earth. You have to choose between following Christ and the original Apostles, or following the Catholic "fathers" of the Dark Ages who increasingly injected layer after layer of rank paganism into professing Christianity.
Which Will YOU Choose?As I explain in the booklet, Which Day is the Christian Sabbath?, if you were on the proverbial desert island with only a sacred calendar and a Bible, you would have to observe the biblical Sabbath and biblical Holy Days because these are the ONLY days the Bible commands or even directly talks about. For instance, the word "Christmas" is not even in the Bible. And there is not even the slightest hint in the Bible that we should observe the day of Christ's birth, even IF we knew when it was—which we do not! And the word "Easter" is purposely not mentioned in any reputable modern translation of the Bible. It is incorrectly mentioned one time in the King James Version in Acts 12:4. But all scholars concede that the word "Pascha" from which it is translated is correctly rendered "Passover" and has no relation to Easter whatsoever. And, virtually all scholars recognize that the word "Easter" is simply a derivation of the name of the ancient goddess Ishtar or "Isis"—goddess of sex and fertility of the ancient Middle East. That, of course, is where "Easter eggs" come from—the pagan worship of sex and fertility. Interestingly, even though we were not taught about God's Holy Days in Sunday School, God's commanded days are mentioned quite often in the Bible! For these days were clearly commanded in the Old Testament and their observance by Christ and the Apostles in the New Testament certainly ratifies them for the Christian Church. Luke tells us: "And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover" (2:40–41). Then the account describes how "when they had finished the days… Jesus lingered behind" (v. 43). All scholars recognize that "the days" spoken of here were the Days of Unleavened Bread, which come immediately after the Passover. So even though Jesus was "strong in the spirit" and able to discuss spiritual principles at the highest level with the doctors of the Jewish law, He joined His parents in keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread. During His ministry, we find Jesus going up to observe the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. He told His physical brothers, "You go up to this feast" (John 7:8). Clearly, they were instructed by the Son of God to go up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles! Then, Jesus Himself went up secretly, at first, so as not to arouse persecution (v. 10). Then "about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught" (v. 14). At the end of Jesus' human life, Luke tells us: "Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed. And He sent Peter and John, saying, 'Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat…. ' Then He said to them, 'With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer'" (Luke 22:7–8, 15). So as an adult—setting us an example—Jesus observed the Passover. Then we find that the inspired Apostolic Church began on another of God's Holy Days, the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out: "When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place" (Acts 2:1). What if the disciples had rejected God's Holy Days and were not even there on the day when the Holy Spirit was given? Some may assume that this was the only Day of Pentecost the early Church observed. Not so. For in Acts 20:16 we read, "For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost." And Paul observed yet another Pentecost in Ephesus: "But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries" (1 Corinthians 16:8–9). Also, the Apostle Paul clearly commanded the Gentile Church at Corinth to observe the Days of Unleavened Bread. Speaking of these days, Paul wrote: "Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us KEEP THE FEAST, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:7–8). Paul was obviously speaking of "keeping the Feast" of Unleavened Bread.
ALL Nations to Observe God's Holy DaysA powerful END-time prophecy makes it exceedingly clear that ALL nations will soon learn to observe the Feast of Tabernacles! Notice what God inspired the Prophet Zechariah to write about the years just ahead of us: "Behold, the day of the Lord is coming, and your spoil will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south…. And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to KEEP THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES. And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, on them there will be no rain. If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the Lord strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to KEEP the Feast of Tabernacles" (Zechariah 14:1–4; 16–19). Since EVERY human being on earth will soon learn to observe these biblical Holy Days, why not learn to obey God and start keeping them NOW? Why not become a spiritual "pioneer" and help blaze the trail for the BILLIONS of others who will come to this understanding soon after Christ's return? "But," you may say, "we have been taught that these are Jewish Holy Days! Are Christians to keep the Jewish Holy Days?" Well, I have just explained that ALL nations, Jew and Gentile, will soon learn to keep the biblical Holy Days—NOT because they are "Jewish"—but because God commands all of His people to observe them. And all of His people did keep them in the New Testament Church and, as we have seen, Christ kept them—setting us an example. The original Apostles kept them also.
True Christians are the "Israel of God"A vital key to understanding is to truly grasp Jesus' instruction to the Samaritan woman. He told this non-Jewish woman, "You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22). Although they often rejected His teaching or overlaid it with all kinds of human traditions, the Jewish people did preserve the knowledge of the Creator God and the only written Bible available to the original New Testament Christians—which we today call the Old Testament. Clearly, the Jews were given the "oracles of God" (Romans 3:1–2), which certainly included God's Holy Days and the understanding of how to construct the sacred calendar upon which those days are based. So the Jews did "know" whom they worshipped. And through Christ and a correct understanding of the Old Testament, salvation was "of the Jews." For in spite of human weakness and man-made tradition, the Jews have preserved God's spiritual LAW, the Ten Commandments, the true Sabbath and the annual Holy Days that the Creator has commanded. And the Jewish race produced Jesus Christ—the prophesied Messiah. As the Apostle Paul was inspired to write, "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God" (Romans 2:28–29). So ALL true Christians are spiritual "Jews"! And we are bound to keep the spiritual laws and Holy Days that God gave Israel and which were reaffirmed by the example of Christ and the inspired New Testament Church. Again, the Apostle was inspired to write: "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God" (Galatians 6:15–16). Clearly, the "Israel of God" are the true people of God—those who are spiritually circumcised and have Christ living His obedient life in them through the Holy Spirit. So, yes, we must get rid of our prejudices and quit calling "Jewish" those things GOD gave for ALL His people of all races and all nations! True Christians are to keep holy the days God made holy. And we are to follow the example of Jesus and the original Apostles in so doing. Then, as we shall see, the understanding and observance of God's Holy Days will open our minds to the great plan and PURPOSE that God is working out here below. Indeed, God does have a great plan in mind for all humanity. God reveals this to us through Paul's letter to the Ephesians: "Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him, in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the PURPOSE of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will" (Ephesians 1:9–11).
A Preview of the PLANMost professing Christians observe what they call the "Lord's Supper," "mass," "Eucharist" or some such observance involving the partaking of bread and wine that symbolize Christ's sacrifice. Few even begin to understand why they are doing this and—as I just pointed out—there are several different types of observances involved when you consider the different branches of Christendom. But, as we shall see, these occasions are memorial observances of only the FIRST step in God's Plan. For most professing Christians, all the other stages of God's Plan are NOT observed in any way—and are therefore not understood in any way! Yet God has a "seven-step" plan—as are so many things God does revealed in patterns of seven. For in the beginning, God created the seven-day week (Genesis 1). The seventh day was revealed to be His Holy Sabbath (2:1–3). Later He gave exactly SEVEN annual Holy Days to reveal His overall plan and purpose in dealing with humanity (Leviticus 23). In the New Testament, we find the SEVEN Churches of Revelation described (Revelation 2–3). We read of the SEVEN seals, the SEVEN trumpets, the SEVEN last plagues, etc. For seven is the number of completion or perfection. Therefore, when we understand, it should seem ridiculous to observe just ONE of God's annual Festivals picturing His Plan and OMIT all the others! As a "preview" of what is to come, let us very briefly examine all seven of God's annual, spiritual Festivals so we can better understand His Plan and PURPOSE in these Festivals as we go along. First comes the solemn observance of Christ's suffering and death on our behalf. The Bible calls this the "Passover." It pictures our acceptance of Christ's broken body and shed blood, which He offered as our Savior. But remember, this is only the first step in God's Plan for us! Next, we need to GROW in grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18) and begin to put our old sinful ways and habits completely out of our lives. This "overcoming" process is pictured by the Days of Unleavened Bread. Third, all of us together in the spirit-begotten Church—the "little flock" (Luke 12:32)—are only the "firstfruits" of the great spiritual harvest that will occur after Christ's Second Coming. So God's third annual Festival, the Feast of Pentecost or Feast of "Firstfruits" pictures the fact that only a very small spiritual harvest is being reaped by God at this time. God is NOT TRYING to "save" the whole world now. Otherwise He would be doing so—and the BILLIONS of unbelievers of past ages and even in our present day in China, India and other nations would quickly come to full understanding of the true God and genuine acceptance of His Son as their Lord and Savior!
END-Time Events Pictured in the SEVENTH MonthFourth, the cataclysmic events at the END of this present age and Christ's return to earth are pictured by the Feast of Trumpets (Leviticus 23:24). Trumpets were literally used in ancient Israel as alarms of war. In our day, at the climax of a series of wars and worldwide upheavals, Jesus Christ will return and the dead will be raised "at the LAST TRUMPET" (1 Corinthians 15:51–52). Then, immediately after Christ's return, Satan is supernaturally bound and put into the bottomless pit "so that he should DECEIVE the nations NO MORE" (Revelation 20:3). Finally, with Satan bound, man can become "at one" with God. This is clearly pictured by the fifth spiritual Festival—the Day of Atonement. After Christ's return, God pours out His Spirit and begins to enlighten all humanity with the true understanding of His great PLAN. At that time, God says, "The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9). This is pictured by our joyous observance of the sixth Festival in God's Plan—the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles or "Feast of Ingathering" (Exodus 34:22). God's Holy Day calendar is based upon the harvest seasons of Israel. As indicated, this pictures for us the spiritual harvest God plans to reap. First, the small spring harvest pictured by the "Feast of Firstfruits." Finally, at the END of this age, the massive autumn harvest is pictured by the "Feast of Ingathering." Now, we come to the seventh and final spiritual Festival God gave His people. "But what part of His plan could still be left to picture?" you might ask. As shown earlier, even at the end of Christ's 1,000-year reign there will be the untold BILLIONS of people of past ages who NEVER UNDERSTOOD virtually anything about the true God, about Jesus Christ or about God's purpose for their lives. What will happen to these "unsaved" billions of human beings since "there is NO PARTIALITY with God"? (Romans 2:11). The solemn seventh Festival of God pictures the time when God will—for the FIRST time—open their minds to understand His Word and His will and give them a genuine opportunity to have their names written in the "Book of Life" (Revelation 20:11–12). With the observance of this seventh Festival that we call the "Last Great Day" (John 7:37), we finish the portrayal of the entire PLAN of our Creator. From our first acceptance of Christ as Savior to the picturing of His Second Coming all the way until the Last Great Day picturing the time when ALL human beings will finally have a real opportunity for salvation—these God-given, God-inspired Festivals picture the REAL plan of God. The pagan religious festivals that Satan has foisted off on a deceived humanity are indeed a cheap substitute. For, in reality, they picture a false god, a false Christ and lead to the acceptance of a false gospel, which directly contradicts the true message that Christ and the Apostles preached! These seven Festivals—two lasting seven days and five lasting one day—make 19 annual Feast days each year. Seven of these 19 days are special rest days or "Sabbaths." These seven annual Sabbaths—also known as God's annual Holy Days—are the First and Last days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Pentecost, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, the First Day of the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Last Great Day. As we will see in this booklet, God's Holy Days are far more than just days on which we cease from our normal work; they are far more than mere civil holidays. Other Jewish holidays, such as Hanukkah and Purim, played an important part in the civil life of the Jewish nation and are important to many Jews today. Yet those civil holidays are not Feasts of the Lord, as listed in Leviticus 23. They may be joyous national celebrations, like the Thanksgiving Day festivities held in the United States and Canada—but just as one would not expect a British citizen to observe Canada's Thanksgiving, one would not expect a non-Jew to find relevance in a holiday established by the Jewish nation-state. And God did NOT command that these civil holidays be kept, as He commanded the observance of the Feasts listed in Leviticus 23. Now, let us retrace and fully understand the meaning and purpose of each of the SEVEN RELIGIOUS FESTIVALS that God gave for all mankind to keep. Remember, understanding and observing these Festivals helps us keep in mind the great MASTER PLAN of our Creator whereby He intends to enlighten and ultimately to save the vast majority of humankind.
Step 1: The PassoverPerhaps millions or even billions of years ago, God decided to bring forth creatures who would become His real sons and daughters. Beings who would come right out from Him, having His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), His very CHARACTER placed within them through the Holy Spirit. They must not be merely created beings like the angels. They must have free moral agency—the capacity to "choose" between good and evil. And they must prove by a lifetime of overcoming that they would always choose God's way, yield to Him, serve Him and NEVER turn aside as did Satan and one-third of the original angels (Revelation 12:4; cf. 1:20). Therefore, God decided that He would create the human race in His own image—having His form and shape and certain God-like capabilities, such as genuine mind power, creative imagination, freedom of choice, etc. God would allow humanity to SIN—under the influence of the fallen archangel Lucifer who has now become Satan the Devil. He would allow humans to go their own way for the first 6,000 years of human history. They would write the lessons of life through human experience and suffering yet, for the most part, not really LEARN those lessons until such time as God chose to supernaturally "call" each individual to genuine understanding and repentance (John 6:44). Since SIN in any form is rebellion against God, it is a truly horrible thing. And since God has decreed that "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23), God decided long ago that only the DEATH of His own Son, Jesus Christ, could truly atone for the awfulness of sin. "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love…. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:4, 7). God told ancient Israel that the "life of the flesh is in the BLOOD" (Leviticus 17:11). So God planned that His own Son's blood would be shed. Christ would be the ultimate Passover Lamb—reconciling all true Christians to God the Father. "For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us" (1 Corinthians 5:7). And again, "Much more then, having now been justified by His BLOOD, we shall be saved from wrath through Him" (Romans 5:9). Weeks before they came to Mount Sinai and before the Old Covenant was even proposed, God told the people of Israel to set aside an unblemished male lamb (Exodus 12:3–6). This lamb was to be the "Passover lamb" and was to be slain on the eve of the 14th day of Abib—the first month of the year in God's sacred calendar. God had determined to destroy ALL the firstborn in Egypt because of Pharoah's refusal to let His people go. But God told the Israelites that if they would obey Him and kill and eat the Passover lamb—putting some of its blood on their doorposts and lintels of their homes—then "when I see the blood, I will PASS OVER you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. So this day shall be to you a MEMORIAL; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an EVERLASTING ordinance" (vv. 13–14). So, more than 1,400 years ahead of time, God guided an entire nation of some three million people to preenact the awesome SACRIFICE that His own Son, Jesus Christ, would later make on behalf of all humanity. For the slaying of the Passover lamb directly portrays the sacrifice of Christ—the first step in God's Plan to make human beings His full sons and daughters. The Passover pictures the fact that we are "being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth to be a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had PASSED OVER the sins that were previously committed" (Romans 3:24–25). Every true Christian is commanded by God to KEEP the Passover! It is to be observed once a year as God commanded—on the very night in which Jesus was delivered to be crucified. The Apostle Paul explains: "For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the SAME NIGHT in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, 'Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.' In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.' For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes" (1 Corinthians 11:23–26). Notice that first comes the partaking of the bread. This pictures Christ's body, which is "broken" for us (v. 24). God's Word clearly shows that Jesus suffered a horrible beating or "scourging" just before He was crucified. The historians tell us that this Roman scourging was done with a leather whip in which were fastened sharp pieces of metal designed to cut and tear the flesh. Because of the violence of this scourging and resultant loss of blood, many condemned prisoners died of the scourging itself even before they could be crucified. WHY did Jesus have to go through this awful beating? About 700 years before it occurred, God inspired the prophet Isaiah to describe what would happen and why: "Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:4–5). By Jesus' stripes we are HEALED! And it is more technically correct to translate the phrase, "He has borne our griefs" as, "He has borne our SICKNESSES." In the New Testament, Matthew describes Jesus healing many people who were sick, and then cites this as the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy: "And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: 'He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses'" (Matthew 8:16–17). So when we eat the broken bread at Passover, we are reaffirming our acceptance of Christ's broken body for our physical HEALING. Let us appreciate these vital symbols of our Savior's sacrifice with deep humility, awe and FAITH in the Great God who made our physical healing and our spiritual forgiveness possible! Next, at the Passover service, we should partake of red wine to symbolize the shed blood of Jesus Christ in full payment for our sins. It is important to understand that Christ is our CREATOR. Therefore, His life is worth more than all of ours put together. The Gospel of John tells us this about Jesus Christ: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made…. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him" (John 1:1–3, 10–11). So the Personality who had been with the Father from eternity "emptied" Himself (cf. Philippians 2:7, NRSV) of His divine glory and power and became our Savior. But in the beginning, it was Christ Himself who created mankind and all that is—acting, of course, for the Father. Ephesians 3 tells us that God "created ALL THINGS through Jesus Christ" (v. 9). No wonder the Bible speaks of the "precious" blood of Jesus Christ! For His is the blood of the Great Being who acted for the Father in creating the vast heavens, the earth and all that is. When we partake of the red wine symbolizing this awesome act of total humility on the part of our Creator, it should fill us with a deep sense of appreciation and WORSHIP toward our God and our Savior. If we have truly repented of our sins and accepted Christ as our Savior, we should have total FAITH that we have not been "redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:18–19).
Step 2: The Feast of Unleavened BreadThrough the Passover sacrifice of Christ we are justified, forgiven of our past sins and "made right" in relation to God. "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him" (Romans 5:9). But even though we are now forgiven our past sins, how will we become "overcomers" and put sin completely out of our lives? The Festival of Unleavened Bread provides the answer. And it pictures the next step in God's Plan. Right after commanding the Passover, God told Moses: "Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. On the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation for you. No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat—that only may be prepared by you. So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance" (Exodus 12:15–17). Notice! As the Festival of Unleavened Bread was the time when God delivered Israel from Egypt—a symbol or "type" of SIN—so the symbolism of this Festival pictures true Christians coming out of spiritual Egypt—SIN! Leaven itself, of course, is also a symbol of sin. For when Jesus wanted to warn the disciples about the treacherous, sinful teachings of the Pharisees, He said to them, "Take heed and beware of the LEAVEN of the Pharisees and the Sadducees" (Matthew 16:6). Literal leaven causes bread to rise, to "puff up," just as the attitude of sin—or self will—causes us to puff up and "do our own thing." And leaven tends to spread itself through dough just as unchecked SIN tends to spread through the Church! Therefore the Apostle Paul told the Corinthians: "Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us" (1 Corinthians 5:6–7). Many nominal Christians believe that we are "saved" when our sins are forgiven. And, indeed, we are at that time saved from the death penalty incurred by our past sins. But we can still fall away and lose out on salvation (Hebrews 6:4–8; 10:26–31; 1 Corinthians 9:27). Salvation is a process. We are now "being saved" (1 Corinthians 1:18) and ultimately "shall be saved"—if we endure to the end (Matthew 24:13). Paul explains, "For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His LIFE" (Romans 5:10). If we observe just the Passover, we leave God's plan incomplete. We leave Jesus hanging dead on the cross—end of story! Yet remember—our Savior rose again! And it is through His resurrected life that we shall be saved. Jesus told His followers, "If you want to enter into [eternal] life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17). He also told us to "repent" (Mark 1:15)—that is, turn completely away from sin and go the other way, the way of righteousness. In other words, God requires that we make a covenant with Him to put sin out of our lives—to stop breaking His spiritual law and start keeping it. And then He expects us to follow through. The Apostle Paul wrote, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Ephesians 2:8–9). Many will say this verse proves that we need not do anything more than receive God's free gift—that we do not need to keep God's law. But how shortsighted a point of view this is, when you consider the very next verse, in which Paul explained that we are "created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (v. 10). Indeed, our whole way of life must change from disobeying God to obeying Him. Of course, He knows that we will not succeed perfectly in this while still in the flesh (Romans 7:18, 24; 1 John 1:8–10). But He still requires that we grow in His character through a process of striving against and overcoming sin (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:24–27; Revelation 2:11; 3:21; 21:7). Our past sinful life must be "crucified with Christ" (Galatians 2:20). We are baptized as a symbol of our old nature being figuratively buried with Christ, then raised from the "watery grave" of baptism as a symbolic "resurrection" to new life in Christ. That being so, we should from then on live according to His way. The Feast of Unleavened Bread pictures this process of living His way, putting sin out of our lives. So Paul commanded the Gentile Church at Corinth: "Therefore let us KEEP THE FEAST [the Feast of Unleavened Bread!], not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:8). Obviously, this is a New Testament command to KEEP the Feast of Unleavened Bread! And this command was given to a primarily Gentile Church—so there was not any "Judaism" here! In verse 7, Paul links the unleavened bread Festival with the Passover that immediately precedes it. For again, Passover deals with forgiveness of past sins whereas the Festival of Unleavened Bread deals with the "follow through"—the determination, with God's help, to GROW in grace and in knowledge "to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). So how are Christians to keep this Feast? As it approaches each year, true followers of New Testament Christianity are to remove leavening (and bread products that are already leavened) from their homes and property. Then for seven days they are to eat no leaven. (Incidentally, there is nothing wrong with literal leaven itself. It is simply a symbol for sin during this Feast.) And as they go through this Festival, if they happen across some leaven in their homes that they had previously overlooked, they are to put that out as well (Exodus 13:7). While they search about their property doing this "spring cleaning," they should remember that, just as crumbs of leavened bread may fall into various nooks and crannies around their homes, so sin may be lurking in the hidden corners of their lives. Indeed, they may be quite surprised at some of the places they find leavening! Christians should be asking God to thoroughly clean them up and scrub them out spiritually—even showing them parts of their minds that they did not know were harboring sin. For seven days—the number of perfection—true followers of New Testament Christianity are to put leaven out of their homes and off their property. They are to focus on getting completely RID of sin. They are to remind themselves through the observance of these God-commanded actions that they have a continuing responsibility before God to overcome themselves, the world and Satan the Devil. This is the true meaning of the Days of Unleavened Bread!
Step 3: PentecostAs we have seen, each of God's commanded Holy Days builds on the previous one in picturing for us the great Master Plan that God has in mind for humanity. Passover pictures our acceptance of Christ's broken body and shed blood—our forgiveness and reconciliation with God. Unleavened Bread pictures the need to come out of sin and to grow in grace and in knowledge. In describing how New Testament Christians can go above and beyond the carnal Israelites of old, the inspired writer of Hebrews tells us: "Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it" (Hebrews 4:1–2). Through receiving the promised Holy Spirit, New Testament Christians can have genuine FAITH in God—far more fully understand His purpose—and be given a measure of God's own character to help them overcome sin and grow in grace and in knowledge. Speaking of the magnificent promises of God, Peter writes that "through these you may be partakers of the DIVINE NATURE" (2 Peter 1:4). Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God places within us His very own nature—His divine character—as we walk with Him and grow spiritually. This is what enables us to genuinely overcome sin—in contrast to the ancient Israelites, who never received the promise of the Holy Spirit. Coming soon after the Days of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Pentecost or Feast of "Firstfruits" (Exodus 34:22) reminds us that God is now calling only a small "firstfruits" spiritual harvest, but that He will bless this small harvest by EMPOWERING us with His Spirit so that we can overcome and grow spiritually even though living in "this present evil age" (Galatians 1:4). In commanding the Feast of Firstfruits to ancient Israel, God told the Israelites to bring a sheaf of the "firstfruits" of the spring grain harvest to the priest (Leviticus 23:10). He was to wave this sheaf—in a solemn ceremony—to be accepted by God and thus obtain God's blessing on this spring harvest and spiritually depict the resurrected Christ being accepted by the Father as the "first of the firstfruits"—the first human to be actually born of God by a resurrection. The "waving ceremony" took place on the Sunday immediately following the weekly Sabbath during the days of Unleavened Bread (v. 11). If you compare Matthew 28:9 with John 20:17, you will see that Christ presented Himself to the Father after His resurrection the previous evening (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23; Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15, 18). The Israelites were to count 50 days beginning with this Sunday: "And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord. You shall bring from your habitations two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the Lord" (Leviticus 23:15–17). Pentecost literally means "50th." By counting exactly 50 days from a designated Sunday, they would always end up a Sunday seven weeks later—but not, obviously, on any particular day of the month. If Pentecost had been commanded to be kept on a particular day of the month, the Bible would have clearly said so—and there would be no need to "count"! Then, on the day of Pentecost or "Firstfruits," they were to offer two "wave loaves." It was stated that these wave loaves "are the FIRSTFRUITS to the Lord" (v. 17). These "firstfruit" loaves evidently pictured both the Old Testament and New Testament people of God—since even the Old Testament prophets had the Holy Spirit of God (cf. 1 Peter 1:10–11). Again, one of the lessons of the "firstfruits" is that God is only calling out a small number of people—the "firstfruits"—in this age. As we have stated, the early spring harvest in Israel was a small harvest compared to the major harvest that came in the autumn. So it is today spiritually. Jesus Christ said: "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are FEW who find it" (Matthew 7:13–14). And John reports Christ's powerful warning: "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day…. And He said, 'Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father'" (John 6:44, 65). Strange as it may seem to millions of "mainstream" Christians who have been taught that God is trying to "save" the world now, the true God of the Bible is trying to do no such thing! If He were, then the vast BILLIONS of human beings who have lived for millennia in India, China, Africa and elsewhere would have been "called" to Christianity. But the vast majority of them lived and died never hearing the name of Christ! The Feast of Pentecost or "Firstfruits" reminds us, year by year that those few called out of this world today are only the "firstfruits" and that a FAR LARGER harvest of souls will occur later—as we shall see. And as we read of the "outpouring" of the Holy Spirit on the first New Testament Day of Pentecost, we can be inspired that though small in number—we "called out ones" today have the POWER of the Holy Spirit to do the Work of God, as well as overcome ourselves with help never before given to human beings. For the inspired Peter proclaimed: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call" (Acts 2:38–39). Then we read Paul's inspired words in Romans 5: "Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (v. 5). And what kind of love is this poured out by the Holy Spirit? The Apostle John clearly stated, "For this is the love of God, that we KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS. And His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3). Through the Holy Spirit, we receive the spiritual love of God—the kind of love we must have to fulfill God's great spiritual law, the Ten Commandments, and build the very character of God. Yearly, the Day of Pentecost reminds us of our unique calling and of the strength we are given through God's Spirit to make our "calling and election sure" (2 Peter 1:10).
The Holy Days - God's Master Plan
|* Passover||Feast of Unleavened Bread||Day of Pentecost||Feast of Trumpets|
|Old Testament meaning|
|A lamb was sacrificed and its blood placed around the doors of Israelite houses in Egypt, which God "passed over" when slaying the Egyptian firstborn. (Leviticus 23:5)||A seven-day festival during which leavening (such as yeast, which causes bread to rise when baking) is put out of dwellings and is not eaten. (Leviticus 23:6-14)||A day celebrating the gathering in of the first and smaller of the two annual harvests; observed 50 days from a fixed point in the previous Feast. (Leviticus 23:15-22)||Called Rosh Hashana by the Jews; a day of rejoicing marked by the blowing of trumpets. (Leviticus 23:23-25)|
|New Testament meaning|
|Pictures Jesus Christ's shedding His blood for the sins of mankind.||Pictures the Christian's duty to "put out sin" from a life yielded to Jesus Christ.||Pictures the Christian's receiving God's Holy Spirit.||Pictures a time of war and plagues, concluding with Jesus Christ's Second Coming.|
|2007||Apr 2||Apr 3 - 9||May 27||Sep 13|
|2008||Apr 19||Apr 20 - 26||Jun 8||Sep 30|
|2009||Apr 8||Apr 9 - 15||May 31||Sep 19|
|2010||Mar 29||Mar 30 - Apr 5||May 23||Sep 9|
|2011||Apr 18||Apr 19 - 25||June 12||Sep 29|
|2012||Apr 6||Apr 7 - 13||May 27||Sep 17|
|2013||Mar 25||Mar 26 - Apr 1||May 19||Sep 5|
|2014||Apr 14||Apr 15 -21||June 8||Sep 25|
|2015||Apr 3||Apr 4 - 10||May 24||Sep 14|
|2016||Apr 22||Apr 23 - 29||June 12||Oct 3|
|Day of Atonement||Feast of Tabernacles||Last Great Day|
|Old Testament meaning|
|A day of fasting and repentance, known to the Jews as Yom Kippur(Leviticus 23:26-32)||A seven-day celebration of the great fall harvest, observed by living in temporary dwellings for the duration of the Feast. (Leviticus 23:33-43)||Adjacent to the Feast of Tabernacles, this eighth day is considered a separate Feast. (Leviticus 23:36, 39)|
|New Testament meaning|
|Pictures the binding of Satan at the beginning of the Millennium and the world becoming at one with God.||Pictures the Millennium, when the earth will be ruled by Jesus Christ and His saints.||Pictures the coming "Great White Throne Judgment" at which all of humanity not previously called will have the chance to hear the True Gospel and accept salvation.|
|2007||Sep 22||Sep 27 - Oct 3||Oct 4|
|2008||Oct 9||Oct 14 - 20||Oct 21|
|2009||Sep 28||Oct 3 - 9||Oct 10|
|2010||Sep 18||Sep 23 - 29||Sep 30|
|2011||Oct 8||Oct 13 - 19||Oct 20|
|2012||Sep 26||Oct 1 - 7||Oct 8|
|2013||Sep 14||Sep 19 - 25||Sep 26|
|2014||Oct 4||Oct 9 -15||Oct 16|
|2015||Sep 23||Sep 28 - Oct 4||Oct 5|
|2016||Oct 12||Oct 17 - 23||Oct 24|
* Observed the previous evening after sunset