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
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
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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?
"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.
"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."
"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.
"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
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.
"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).
"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.
"...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.
NEW TESTAMENT FEAST DAYS
Did the Apostolic Church keep the feasts? We believe
the preponderance of evidence proves they did!
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
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.
REALITY OF THE HOLY DAYS
At this point, a brief summary of the holy days and their
significance is in order.