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God's Holy Days For Christians

Has God indeed set aside certain times during the year to be called holy? If such times were established by him, does man have the right to ignore their observance? Or should man not rather obey, to the best of his ability and understanding, all of God's commands? Jesus said,

   "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4).

  Recently we have been given literature that attacks those who keep God's feast days. This writing will attempt to answer some of the objections raised by that writer and others who, because of denominational teaching, have not honestly represented those who are observing the feast days of God.
  Those who oppose keeping the holy days are not necessarily being intentionally malicious. We feel their bias just holds them to a contrary opinion and they mean well. However, when any man teaches others not to obey what they perceive to be the complete will of God, he will have to answer to a higher judge.
  Therefore, this booklet is not to sit in judgment of those who disagree with our position, but to teach the will of God on this subject, and why we believe it to be His will for the church to observe the holy days as prescribed in His inspired word.

MEANING OF "HOLY"

  The word "holy" comes from the Hebrew word "kah-dash", and means to be pure, clean, consecrated, and sacred. it further means "to be separated from the profane." This word is used very early in your Bible when God separated the sabbath day from the other days of the week (Genesis 2:3). The English Bible (KJV) translates "kah-dash" as "sanctified" here, labeling the sabbath day as sanctified time or holy time.
  Later when speaking of the sabbath day, God said,

  "six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy [kah-dash] convocation..." (Leviticus 23:3).

  Here the Bible commands the people to be a holy convocation or a holy gathering. In other words, they were to be separated for worship at certain times. This same chapter of the Bible lists God's annual feasts to be times for holy gatherings.
  God commanded both the weekly and the annual sabbaths to be kept by Israel. This has caused some people to conclude that these days are only for Israel, but a closer look will reveal how God refers to them as His feasts rather than Israel's feasts.

  "Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy [kah-dash] convocations, even these are My feasts" (Leviticus 23:2).

  Only God has the authority to command something to be "holy" and make it such. Men have called pictures holy, certain days holidays, etc., but God does not recognize them to be really holy unless He establishes them so. Likewise, He is the only one who has the authority to repeal what He has made holy and, thenceforth recognize it as profane.
  God has never canceled His holy days. When they were announced to Israel, He specifically said,

  "it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.." (Leviticus 23:14).

  We will address the word "forever" later in this writing, it means just what it says - forever.

HOLY DAYS NOT ABOLISHED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

  Does the New Testament cancel God's weekly and annual sabbaths? Some people will state that Paul does so in Colossians. Let's take a closer look.

  "Let no man therefore judge in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ" (Colossians 2:16-17).

  If your Bible has a center column reference, notice the footnote preceding the words "in meat, or in drink." It reads in the Cambridge edition of the KJV "for eating and drinking." This makes it clearer whether Paul is saying we are not to let others judge us: 1) for not eating and drinking and observing holy days and sabbaths or, 2) for observing them. The better translation will make it clear they were not to be judged for keeping the holy days and sabbaths.
  Further, notice the verb "are" in the previous quotation. The obvious understanding is that these holy days and sabbaths are still being recognized by the apostolic church. Had they been repealed by Paul's words, he would have used a verb of past tense such as "were." If Paul had said the holy days and sabbaths "were a shadow of things to come...;" a case might be made from this text that God had rescinded holy day observance, but just the opposite is what the text is clearly saying. These days are still in effect and are a shadow of things to come. If the text could be used to prove the annual holy days are done away, it would at the same time prove the weekly sabbath day is rescinded as well. The weekly and annual sabbaths either stand or fall together in this verse.
  Some will then turn to Paul's writings to the Galatians in their effort to prove he saw the holy days as abolished.

  "Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain" (Galatians 4:10-11).

  The question is this: Was Paul speaking of God's holy days or of pagan practices of the Gentiles?
  First, it should be noted how the Bible refers to pagan worship in connection with certain "times." See Deuteronomy 18:10, 2Kings 21:6 and 2Chronicles 33:6 for some examples.
  Further, the word "times" in Paul's letter comes from the Greek word "kairos" and never refers to God's feast days. The 27 times where God's feast days are referred to in the New Testament, the Greek word is always "heorte." Not one time does the Greek word "kairos" refer to God's holy days. Also the verse in question does not contain the word "sabbath." It merely says "day."
  Second, we want to be aware of the cultural background of the Galatian church. Reading the second chapter of this book will reveal that it was written to Gentiles. These people, prior to their conversion, were pagan worshipers. They had been worshiping idols for gods. Consider what Paul wrote,

  "Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?" (Galatians 4:8-9).

  When these Gentiles returned to the weak and beggarly elements, they were returning to pagan practices. God's holy days are not weak and beggarly elements to be associated with idol worship of heathen nations. The elements they had previously worshiped were the sun, moon, planets, and idols which were common objects of worship to the pagan culture of that day.
  Members of God's church should always remember how Peter warned that Paul's writings included things hard to understand.

   "And account that the  longsuffering of our Lord is  salvation; even as our  beloved brother Paul also  according to the wisdom  given unto him hath written  unto you; As also in all his epistles,  speaking in them of these  things; in which are some  things hard to be understood, which they that  are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the  other scriptures, unto their  own destruction." (2Pe 3:15-16).

  A STATUTE FOREVER

  The Hebrew word "olawm" has been translated in the KJV as, "forever, everlasting, perpetual, and eternal." The Hebrew/English Interlinear translation by Jay P. Green uses the words "never-ending" for "olawm."
  Some argue that this term does not mean forever when used with the phrase "throughout your generations." But the same persons agree that the sabbath is perpetual (olawm) covenant as stated in Exodus. Their argument breaks down under close scrutiny.

  "Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual [olawm] covenant" (Exodus 31:16).

  Likewise, when speaking of the holy days of God, Moses uses the same words four times in Leviticus 23:14, 21, 31, and 41: "It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations." twice he includes the words, "in all your dwellings." This is very important, for it shows they were to observe the feast days wherever they were, "in all your dwellings," not just in the city where the temple was. However, the sacrifices must be performed at the temple.
  The prohibition against eating blood is also described as an eternal law.

  "It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings..." (Leviticus 3:17)

  Sacrificing to devils is condemned in similar words as well as drinking wine and strong drink in His sanctuary. See Leviticus 10:9 and 17:7. We understand these prohibitions to still be binding on godly people today.
  The phrase, "forever throughout your generations" was an idiom used by Moses and in no way re-qualifies the meaning of the word "forever" (olawm) to mean other than perpetual, forever, or never-ending. Those that insist otherwise show either bias against keeping the feast days or their ignorance of the Hebrew language or both. We hope they will reconsider the issue and withdraw writings that demean those who want to obey God's Word.

THE HOLY DAYS PRECEDED SACRIFICIAL LAW

  Another misunderstanding regarding God's holy days is that they originated with the sacrificial laws. This is simply not true. The feasts of God were mentioned in the original covenant He made with Israel through Moses. The covenant included more than just the ten commandments. The ten commandments were spoken aloud directly from God.  When the people became fearful, God gave the balance of His covenant with Israel through Moses. The words of Exodus chapter 20 through 23 were all a part of that covenant.

  "And Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the Lord hath said will we do. And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the Lord." (Exodus 24:3-5).

  It is important to know that this altar was not for sin offerings as was the altar of the sanctuary. It was constructed of stones of the earth, not wood covered with brass as Moses was instructed later for the sanctuary (Exodus 27:1-2). The specific purpose of the earthen altar was to seal, or ratify, the covenant and put it into force.

  "And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.  And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words." (Exodus 24:6-8).

  This was the original covenant between God and the nation of Israel. it was a covenant of obedience, without temple sacrifices. Two sacrifices are mentioned therein, neither of which are to be construed as a part of the sanctuary service which was added later. Exodus 20:24-26 mentions an altar of earth, which was made and used to ratify the covenant as outlined above. The only other sacrifice was the pascal lamb to be sacrificed on the anniversary of Passover.

  "Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread; neither shall the fat of my sacrifice remain until the morning." (Exodus 23:18).

  This is the same manner in which God had previously told them to keep the Passover before leaving Egypt.
  Within the wording of this covenant (a covenant on godly living) is the command to keep the three seasonal feasts of God.

  "Three times thou shalt keep a feast unto me in the year" (Exodus 23:14).

  The text goes on to show these to be: 1) the feast of Unleavened Bread, 2) the feast of harvest or sometimes called the feast of weeks (Pentecost), and 3) the feast of ingathering (Tabernacles).
  It was only after this book of the covenant was read, agreed to by the people of Israel, and ratified by blood, that God gave the ten commandments in stone to Moses.
  And after that He gave Moses the instruction for building the tabernacle where laws of sacrifices were to be added because He knew they would violate the covenant of obedience. The Old Covenant came in two parts, first the laws of obedience, then later the laws of sacrifices because of disobedience.
  This point is further emphasized in the writings of the prophets.

  "For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice..." (Jeremiah 7:22-23).

  It is true that special sacrifices were later added to holy days. Space does not permit enumeration of all these many sacrifices but they are all listed in the book of Numbers, chapters 28 and 29. What some fail to acknowledge, however, is that the weekly sabbath also had special sacrifices added to it as did the annual feast days.

  "And on the sabbath day two lambs of the first year without spot, and two tenth deals of flour for a meat offering, mingled with oil, and the drink offering thereof: This is the burnt offering of every sabbath, beside the continual burnt offering, and his drink offering." (Numbers 28:9-10)

  Sacrifices that were added later because of disobedience to the covenant neither validated nor invalidated annual holy days or weekly sabbaths.

HOLY DAYS KEPT WHILE IN THE WILDERNESS

  It has been dogmatically taught by some that the holy days of God were not observed in the wilderness, but were reserved for keeping only after entering the promised land with Joshua. This position seems to be supported by the statement,

  "Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest... the priest shall wave it." (Leviticus 23:10-11).

  A careful reading will reveal it is the harvesting and the waving of the firstfruits that are to wait until entering the promised land, not the annual observance of the feast days. So far as this text reads, along with the whole chapter, the weekly sabbaths and the annual holy days could have been kept in the wilderness. Remember, they did not harvest crops of barley and wheat during the wanderings in the wilderness. Rather, they ate manna as God provided. Hence, they had to wait until they entered the promised land to begin the ritual of the wave offerings of the barley firstfruits.
  This seems to be the actual fact when we consider that the feast days as well as the weekly sabbaths were a part of the covenant the Israelites agreed to keep. When Moses, just before his death, pronounced the blessings upon the different tribes, he said of Levi,

  "...for they have observed the word, and kept thy covenant" (Deuteronomy 33:9).

  On at least one occasion the record is quite clear that they kept the Passover in the wilderness.

  "And they kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the first month at even in the wilderness of Sinai: according to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so did the children of Israel." (Numbers 9:5).

  Since this was part of the covenant, it would make sense that they observed the other feast days during that same time period to entering the promised land.
  The absence of a record each time the Israelites observed the holy days is not proof they were not kept. Specific instances of keeping the feasts are rather rare in scripture in relation to the many thousands of times they were held throughout Israel's history.
  It has been charged that any observance of the day of Atonement would be a denial of the atoning work of Christ. This is as ridiculous as saying that people who observe their birthday are denying their own birth. Or that when we keep the Lord's supper we are denying His death and resurrection. Rather than to be a denial of the atonement work of Christ, keeping the day of Atonement emphasizes and memorializes what was foreshadowed by the ancient ritual and how it was fulfilled in Christ's ministry. It declares how helpless man is in trying to earn his own atonement relationship with God. It is only through the grace of God and through the true self-denial of Christ, that God has provided our atonement.

NEW TESTAMENT FEAST DAYS

  Did the Apostolic Church keep the feasts? We believe the preponderance of evidence proves they did!
  We should begin by exposing an erroneous idea that the feasts were only for the Jews. It has been claimed by some that since John called the Passover and other feasts, "feast of the Jews," this somehow excluded Gentile Christians. See John 5:1, 6:4, and 7:2.
  John could hardly say that they were the "feasts of the Gentiles," for then he would have been including pagan festivals. Another term common in the New Testament is, "Jesus...born King of the Jews" (Matthew 2:1-2). This does not exclude His being King of those Gentiles who also believe in Him. Obviously, Jesus is the Anointed King, established by the Father. He is just as much King of the Gentiles as He is King of the Jews. The same is true of God's appointed feast days. They are for all of God's people.
  About 25 or more years after Christ died, Paul kept the feast of Pentecost.

  "For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost." (Acts 20:16).

  The question we should try to answer is this: Was Paul in Jerusalem for Pentecost just to preach to the unregenerate Jews or was he there to worship God? Let's not guess, as so many have done, for our biased attitude might mislead us into wrong conclusions not based on the facts.
  In his defense before Felix, Paul fully explains why he had been in Jerusalem.

  "Because that thou mayest understand, that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship. And they neither found me in the temple disputing with any man, neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city: Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me." (Acts 24:11-13).

  Paul's testimony declares that his sole purpose for being in Jerusalem was to worship. If he had stopped there we might still wonder whether he also was preaching Christ among the Jews as some have claimed. But he distinctly says, he was not disputing among the people in the city. Can we imagine him preaching Jesus as the Messiah and not raising a dispute? Impossible during that time. He was there to observe Pentecost in Jerusalem.
  Speaking of the feast of Unleavened Bread, Paul adds a spiritual dimension to the term "leaven," when he states he and the Corinthian believers are to keep the feast.

  "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).

  If Christians had not been keeping sabbath days and feast days, surely the denunciation would have been loud and clear from the Jews. But what do we find the Jews accusing the Christians? Not of ignoring the feasts that God had commanded them to keep. The accusation against the Christians was coming to God through Jesus instead of first becoming a part of nationalistic Judaism, evidenced by circumcision of the flesh.
  Historians agree that the first Christians (which were among the Jews) kept all the feast days. Some even insisted on the fleshly circumcision, hardly a point noteworthy for the historian had they all been Jews. Read what W. D. Davies, a specialist on early Christianity records, 

  "Everywhere, especially in the east of the Roman Empire...they still observed the feasts of Passover and Tabernacles; they also continued to be circumcised, to keep the weekly Sabbath and Mosiac regulations concerning food."

  Other historians speak further,

  "the sect originated after the flight from Jerusalem, (70 A.D.), are characterized essentially by their tenacious attachment to Jewish observances...they became heretics in the eyes of the Mother Church...they well represent, though Epiphanius is energetically refusing to admit it, the very direct descendants of the primitive community." "They practice the custom and doctrines prescribed by the Jewish law, except that they believe in Christ" (FROM SABBATH TO SUNDAY, by Samuele Bacchocchi).

  The holy days are mentioned in the New Testament only a few times after Christ died. This causes some to presume they were not kept. However, we must keep in mind that in the Old Testament (an Israelite history of over 1,000 years), relatively few instances of holy day observances are recorded. Should we be surprised then when less than 70 years of Christian history fails to make more than a few references to them? If the Christians had been ignoring them, we believe specific charges would have been made against the church and be most evident in the Bible. The lack of such evidence argues for their observance by the early church.

FUTURE BLESSINGS

  The Bible implies the feasts of God will be kept after Christ returns to rule the earth. It specifically speaks of keeping the feast of Tabernacles in the writings of Zechariah.

  "And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations [not just the Jews] which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles." (Zechariah 14:16).

  Strange as it may seem, men living on the earth under Christ's rule will still have the freedom to refuse keeping the holy days just as they do today. However they must suffer the consequences for their rebelliousness.

  " And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the Lord will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles." (Zechariah 14:17-18).

  If God says the feasts are going to be kept in the New Earth, why would men today refuse to observe them and receive His fuller blessings? We urge people, as individuals, to study this issue and decide for themselves. No preacher or denominational leader should decide whether we as individuals can or should be keeping the feasts of God. If we are truly following Christ, the Bible is our most sure guide. The blessings we receive will be proportionate to how we each obey what we understand to be His will, not the coercive teachings of denominations.
  Both weekly and annual holy days were established prior to the sacrificial laws. Both are equally binding upon those who want to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Only the sacrifices that were added later were superseded by the greater sacrifice of Christ's blood.

REALITY OF THE HOLY DAYS

  At this point, a brief summary of the holy days and their significance is in order.
  In Israel, there were three major harvests of fruit of the land. Each harvest pictured a part of God's plan of salvation for mankind, the greater spiritual harvest of men's lives.
  In the early spring, Abib 14, was Passover. The killing of the passover animal pictured the death of Christ. "For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us..." (1 Corinthians 5:7).
  This was followed by unleavened bread, all leavening was put out of their homes. This pictured the casting out of sin. Christians today are reminded by this process how subtly sin encroaches in our lives. Just when we think it is conquered, it reappears. This reminds us of our total need of God's forgiveness for the sin in our lives.
  During the week of Unleavened Bread, the wave sheaf offering was made, which pictured the first of the firstfruits of the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ.
  The next feast was called the feast of weeks, which came seven weeks after the wave sheaf was offered. The New Testament calls this day Pentecost. Here the Holy Spirit was poured out to begin the New Testament church. This harvest which began shortly after the ascension of Christ, does not end until He returns to catch away the saints and resurrect all who died in Him (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).
  His return in full kingdom power to rule the earth is pictured by the day of Trumpets. The last trumpet calls forth the dead in Christ and announces God's war against evil, Armaggedon.
  Atonement was accomplished for mankind at Jesus death. The full benefits, however, will not be realized until after His return when we are most literally at one with God, ruling with Christ. We observe this day in commemoration of His atoning sacrifice.
  Then comes the 1,000 years of earthly rule which is typified by the feast of Tabernacles. (See Zechariah 14).
  Finally, the last great day, picturing the Great White Throne judgment.
  May God who created all things bless each of us as we obey in observing His command to be part of holy convocations at His appointed times.

Churchlight Publishing Association




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