Just as it keeps the
weekly Sabbath, the Church of God also observes the annual holy days
that were ordered by God, kept by the ancient Israelites and continued
by the early New Testament Christians. These seven annual "appointed
feasts" pictures God's plan of salvation for man.
The annual holy days are named the First Day and Last Day of the Feast
of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of
Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day. These days occur
on specific dates of the current Hebrew calendar, with the exception of
Pentecost which is counted in a biblically prescribed manner. Like the
weekly Sabbath, each Holy Day is reckoned from the evening sunset to the
The functions of these annual holy days are partly
the same; those of the weekly Sabbath. The primary importance of the
festivals is their function as spiritual symbols, outlining God's plan
of salvation for the individual and the world. These days include
religious instruction and worship which provide for spiritual renewal on
a regular basis.
The holy days serve as spiritual, psychological and
social high points of the year. They allow people to get together in an
atmosphere of leisure and enjoyment. In addition, these days provide
opportunity to rest physically. Psychologically, the human need for
change of pace and a time to forget the ordinary concerns of day-to-day
life is met by these periodic festivals.
However, the central concern of these days is
spiritual. Supplementing the weekly Sabbath services, there is still a
need for intensive concentration on spiritual matters over a period of
days without the distraction of the normal routine of making a living.
The spring and autumn festival seasons supply this, especially the Feast
of Tabernacles which is customarily held only in a few central
The holy days fulfill the spiritual objective of
being holy convocations for the Church today. They also are "shadows of
things to come" pointing to and outlining the substance of God's great
plan of salvation for all mankind. This is briefly summarized as
The Passover represents the sacrifice of Christ which
pays for the sins of all who repent and accept it in faith. It also
represents partaking of eternal life through Jesus Christ (shown by the
bread and wine which symbolize His body and blood). The Feast of
Unleavened Bread is symbolic of the continual removing of sin from the
spiritual sphere of one's life and the continual practicing of a new
godly way of life, represented by Christ, who was unleavened, that is,
Pentecost pictures both the foundation of this New
Testament Church and the sending of the Holy Spirit for the individual.
The Feast of Trumpets symbolizes the spreading of the gospel to the
world like the trumpet call of a watchman; it also shows the return of
Jesus Christ to set up the Kingdom of God on earth. The Day of
Atonement, a solemn day of fasting and self-searching represents the
time when sin shall be placed upon the head of its ultimate source,
Satan the devil. The removal of the cause of evil allows God's Kingdom
to hold unopposed rulership over mankind. The Feast of Tabernacles is
symbolic of the millennial rule of God through Jesus Christ and His
saints. It shall be followed by an opportunity for salvation for all who
have lived and died and were not previously called to have a part in the
first resurrection-this is the meaning behind the Last Great Day. The
culmination shall be the new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21), in which
all creation shall be renewed in preparation for the humanly
unfathomable eternity on beyond.
Apart from the Sabbath there is no explicit mention
of the annual festivals in Genesis. However, the Hebrew word translated
"appointed time," (mo'ed) used else-where in the Old Testament to
specifically refer to the annual festivals, occurs in Genesis 1:14 in
reference to purposes for God's creation of the heavenly bodies.
Exodus 12 is the first clear biblical reference to
annual festival days. The institution of the Passover at the time of the
Exodus is well known and need not be rehearsed in detail here.
Exodus 23:14-17, a part of the Old Covenant passage,
describes "three times" or seasonal observances in a year within which
the seven annual holy days fall. These "times" include the Feast of
Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Harvest (Pentecost) and the Feast of
Ingathering (Feast of Tabernacles). Similarly, Exodus 34:18-24 lists the
Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) and the Feast of Tabernacles. Originally all
of these festivals were built around the system of agronomy in the
ancient Near East. By following this logical system the holy days gain
significance and their spiritual purport, can be more easily understood.
Several passages give a more complete and detailed
description of the annual holy days. The most complete is Leviticus 23;
others include Deuteronomy 16 and Numbers 28-29. The following
information is taken primarily from these passages.
Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread. The Passover
lamb was slaughtered on the 14th of Nisan. It was eaten with unleavened
bread and bitter herbs on into the evening. That night the death angel
passed, spared the Israelites who had put the blood of the lamb on the
doorposts, and slaughtered the Egyptian firstborn. This began a period
of seven days of eating unleavened bread. The 15th and 21st days were
holy days on which no work was to be done. The intervening days were not
holy days, but no leaven was to be eaten or any leavened products to be
in the houses. It was on the Sunday during this period that the first
sheaf (omer) of the new harvest-was offered as the Wave Sheaf offering.
Only after this offering could the spring harvest begin.
Pentecost (Feast of Weeks): This festival took its
name from the manner in which it was determined. Rather than being
celebrated on a particular calendar day, it was counted seven weeks or
fifty days from the Wave Sheaf Day-hence the term "Feast of Weeks" in
the Old Testament and "Pentecost" (Greek "fiftieth") in the time of the
New Testament. It marked the end of the spring harvest. The basic
instructions for determining the date of Pentecost are clear in
Leviticus 23:15-16 which reads as follows according to the Hebrew text:
"You shall count beginning with the day after the Sabbath, the day on
which you brought the wave sheaf (seven Sabbaths shall be completed), to
the day after the seventh Sabbath; you shall count fifty days." In other
words, one begins and ends counting with a Sunday, hence a Sunday is the
day of Pentecost. This interpretation is confirmed by the practice of
the conservative and priestly groups represented by the Sadducees, the
Samaritans and the Karaites.*
Granted, other groups used either the first or last holy
day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread as their reference for counting,
rather than the weekly Sabbath. This interpretation evidently originated
in the change of the meaning of the Hebrew word shabbat. This is the
word occurring three times in Leviticus 23:15-16 (and translated
"Sabbath" each time in the translation above). The original meaning of
the word was the weekly Sabbath, but it was occasionally used for the
annual Sabbaths, as well, though always clarified by the context.
.However, during the intertestamental period, the word came to mean
Thus, the Pharisees took the word "Sabbath" in the sense
of "annual Sabbath" and "week," so that they counted seven weeks"
beginning with the first holy day. The Essenes, while using a solar
calendar, and the Falashas interpreted the word as "week," counting
seven weeks from the Sunday after the Passover week. These
interpretations, although originating before the first century A,D.,
were evidently incorrect. The term "Sabbath" was not likely to be used
of an annual Sabbath without clarification. Thus, the Pharisaic method
was unlikely interpretation. Further, to take the word "Sabbath" in the
sense of "week," as the Pharisees, Essenes and Falashas all did, was
anachronistic; the word did not have this meaning in Old Testament
Feast of Trumpets: This festival, on the first day of
the 7th month (Tishri), was celebrated by the blowing of
trumpets-hence the popular name. The Old Testament significance of this
day seems to have had its origins in the trumpet sound of alarm used to
call people to a state of general warning or preparation for war (Ezek.
33). The spiritual significance will be discussed later. In later times,
it marked the beginning of the civil year just as it does among Jews
today. (However, it is not clear that this was the case in Old Testament
times. A popular theory among Old Testament scholars has been that the
new year began with this day in Old Testament times, but recent studies
have called this into question and have advanced reasons for believing
that in Old Testament times the new year began in the spring with Nisan
Day of atonement: The 10th day of the 7th month had
quite an elaborate ritual in Old Testament times and continued up until
the destruction of the Temple. It was a commanded fast day in which
nothing was eaten or drunk for 24 hours, from the evening of the 9th to
the evening of the 10th. On the day itself, the ritual of the two goats
was enacted as described in detail in Leviticus 16. Two goats were
selected. By drawing lots, one was chosen to represent God and the other
to represent "Azazel." In later literature "Azazel" was considered a
name for the chief of the demons, i.e. another name for Satan (I Enoch
9:6. 10:4). The high priest first sacrificed a bull for himself and
entered into the Holy of Holies to sprinkle the blood on the mercy seat.
Then, he slaughtered the goat "for the Lord" and sprinkled its blood on
the mercy seat, as he had done the blood of the bull. In this way the
high priest was the only person to ever go into the Holy of Holies, and
then only on the Day of Atonement. At all other times, and to all other
people, it was off limits. The goat for Azazel then had the sins of the
people confessed over it by the high priest. After that it was taken
away live into the wilderness and turned loose, symbolically removing
all the transgressions of the people away from the camp. Thus, the Day
of Atonement symbolized the reconciling of the Israelites to God.
Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day: This was a
festival period beginning with the 15th day of the 7th month, a holy
day, and continuing through the 22nd, another holy day. During this time
the Israelites were to build temporary shelters or booths (Hebrew)
comparable to that used by a watchman in a field or vineyard. This led
to the designation "Feast of Tabernacles" or "Feast of Booths" (Hebrew
sukkot). This festival corresponded to the end of the autumn harvest.
A distinction is made between the first seven days of
the festival, the Feast of Tabernacles proper, and the last or eighth
day. Some passages refer only to a feast of seven days (Deut. 16:15).
Leviticus 13:33-36 shows that the last or eighth day is in fact a
separate festival. That is, just as the Passover commences the Feast of
Unleavened Bread but is a distinct celebration, and just as the Wave
Sheaf Day is a distinct celebration even though falling within the Feast
of Unleavened Bread, so is the Last Great Day the consummation of the
Feast of Tabernacles though considered a festival in its own right.
Old Testament Examples and History
The rejoicing and the enjoyment of the bounties of
the land were made possible and accentuated by the coincidence of
festival season and harvest time. That is, all of the annual holy days
fall at the beginning, during, or at the end of a harvest period.
Furthermore, the Israelites were told to set aside a certain part of
their harvest produce for use exclusively at the festivals. (This is
discussed further under Tithing and Giving.)
The regulations for observing the festivals are
contained primarily in the legal sections of the Pentateuch. In the
historical and later books only passing reference is made to the annual
holy days. Certain references in the historical sections strongly imply
that whole periods went by in which there was little or no celebration
of the holy days. Following are some of the more important passages.
Joshua 5:10-11 describes the first Passover after
Israel crossed the Jordan. Chapter 6, which tells of the destruction of
Jericho, may envision the seven-day siege as the seven days of
unleavened bread; but this is nowhere explicitly stated. Nothing is
stated in the book of Judges-which describes a period of partial anarchy
and feudal chaos-except for 21:19: "Behold, there is the yearly feast of
the Lord at Shiloh." The exact feast is not named.
The first chapters of I Samuel show a functioning
sacrificial center at Shiloh where the ark and the Tabernacle were
located. None of the festivals are mentioned by name. However, the
general description plus the mention of Elkanah's coming up annually
suggests that the annual festivals were being observed in some manner.
The ark continued to be a religious symbol, but the actual extent of a
fully functioning religious system is not clear. Only after David
captured Jerusalem and transferred the ark was there an atmosphere which
both allowed and encouraged the traditional observances. David proposed
to build a temple but was prevented.
Under Solomon, with the construction of the Temple, a
full temple service was instituted. This is the first explicit mention
of festival observance outside the Pentateuch. I Kings 8:2 states: "And
all the men of Israel assembled to King Solomon at the feast in the
month Ethanim, which is the seventh month." It was at this Feast of
Tabernacles that the ark and the holy vessels were brought up to the
Temple (see also II Chron. 5-7).
The temple service was continued through Solomon's
reign and for a time afterward (e.g. II Chron. 8:12-13). However, with
the split of the kingdom under Rehoboam, the northern kingdom of Israel
ceased to go to Jerusalem to worship. Instead, Jeroboam set up calves of
gold in Dan and Bethel and ordained a festival in the eighth month (I
Kings 12:25-33). After this there is a period of approximately two
centuries in which worship at the Jerusalem Temple by the northern
tribes evidently fell into oblivion. At various points the books of
Kings mention that individual kings over the northern kingdom continued
to follow "the sin of Jeroboam the son of Nebat" (e.g. I Kings 15:34;
16:26; 22:52; II Kings 3:3; 10:31).
The next mention of a major festival observance is
under Hezekiah, shortly before the fall of the northern kingdom (II
Chron. 29-31). But evidently this revival was short-lived, undoubtedly
because of the acts of Manasseh, his son. It was not until the time of
Josiah that the Temple was repaired and the services begun again. At
that time a copy of the law was found and its instructions followed.
This shows the depths to which worship of God had degenerated (II Kings
22-23). A Passover was observed according to the law "...no such Passover
had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel, or during
all the days of the kings of Israel or of the kings of Judah" (II Kings
It was almost a century before another festival
observance is mentioned. With the return of the exiles from Babylon,
worship services were set up again, the Feast of Tabernacles was kept in
that first year even before the foundations of the new Temple were laid
(Ezra 3: 1-6). Yet some three quarters of a century later, at the time
of Ezra, we find the temple service evidently requiring some revival.
Despite the new Temple, the law was still in need of promulgation.
Exactly what had happened in the meantime is not clear; it is clear that
the law was being little observed. Even though the Feast of Tabernacles
was observed with the first return of the exiles, this seems to have
been forgotten until Ezra made it known again to the people in the time
of Nehemiah (Neh. 8).
After the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, there are long
periods for which we have very little information. Yet the Temple
survived and the service continued to a greater or lesser extent. With
the second century B.C. our information becomes much fuller. Despite the
attempts at extirpation by Rome, the temple service continued basically
unabated for two centuries before the destruction of the Temple in 70
It might be noted here that the new moons are often
mentioned in association with festival celebrations in the Old
Testament. During the lengthy centuries when the calendar was determined
by observation of the new crescent, witnesses had to report to the
proper authorities and the new month could officially be declared. The
day of the new moon was, consequently, very important. Therefore, the
new moons were always given a certain special regard.
On the other hand, new moons are never designated
holy days. They are not included in any of the lists of festivals. No
special sanctity is ever attached to them. The only extraordinary regard
accorded them was that certain special offerings were carried out on
their days. But this did not in any way hallow them, since offerings
were offered every secular day as well. They also lost something of
their former special function when the calendar became determined solely
by calculation in the early centuries A. D.
Holy Days in the New Testament
In scholarship it is widely acknowledged that the
early Church continued to observe the annual holy days of the Old
Testament: "In the early Christian Church the propriety of celebrating
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, 628).
However, it is obvious that the annual festivals took
on a new significance in the apostolic Church and were transformed into
celebrations. Jesus Himself played a great part in this by His teachings
The gospels show a number of examples of Jesus
observing various festivals. It was so expected that He would be in
Jerusalem for these occasions that people waited to see whether He would
come when His life was in danger (John. 7:11; 11:55-57). In addition to
His last Passover, He came to Jerusalem on at least one other Passover
(John. 2:13), as well as spending one in the region of Galilee (John.
6:1-4). John 7 describes happenings during a particular Feast of
Tabernacles. Unnamed feasts are mentioned in John 4:45 and 5:1. He also
attended the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah), even though this was not
one of the Old Testament institutions.
By far the most important festival of Jesus' life was
the one at which He was betrayed. On this occasion, He met with His
disciples at the beginning of the 14th of Nisan. It is clear not only
from the gospel of John that He had the Last Supper a day earlier than
the Jews (John I8:28), but this is also indicated by passing remarks in
the Synoptic gospels. (While it is recognized that there are still some
unanswered questions in any attempt at harmonizing all four accounts, it
is evident that Jesus took His Passover a day earlier than the Jews.).
In any case, Jesus at this time changed the symbols
of the Passover for Christians and also went through the ceremony of
washing the disciples' feet. Then He died as the Passover Lamb of God.
The apostolic Church had its own beginning some
several weeks later on the day of Pentecost. Again, an Old Testament
observance immediately took on deep new Christian Significance for the
Church, because the Holy Spirit was first sent on that day.
Various of the festivals are mentioned elsewhere,
though generally only in passing. Pentecost is mentioned twice besides
Acts 2 (Acts 20:16; I Cor. 16:8). The Day of Atonement is called by its
common designation of the time, "the Fast" (cf Acts 27:9). These all
indicate an environment in which the holy days were known, accepted and
One passage is basically undisputed as showing holy
day observance in the early Church. This is I Corinthians 5:6-8:
out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are
unleavened. For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us,
therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven
of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and
As most commentators and scholars who have written on
verse point out, observance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is
presumed. Otherwise, the play on being physically versus spiritually
unleavened, and the reference to "let us celebrate the festival" would
have no meaning. Again, this passing reference shows a time when
festival observance was taken for granted.
Of course, the most detailed discussion is devoted to
the celebration of the Christian Passover. I Corinthians 11:17-34 gives
detailed directions on how to take the "Lord's Supper" (kuriakon deipnon)
or "communion." The memorial celebration was conducted "on the night
when He was betrayed," that is, the evening at the beginning of the 14th
(v. 23). The symbolic meaning will be discussed further below.
The scriptures often cited by Christian churches to
refute the necessity of keeping God's holy days-Galatians 4:10 and
Colossians 2:16-are discussed under Sabbath. Suffice it to say here that
if it is assumed that Paul was "doing away" with the holy days, the
relative obscurity of the specific meaning of these scriptures and the
general lack of importance of the whole issue is totally incongruous and
inconsistent with the enormous importance of these holy days in the
religious environment of the times. The fact that Paul stated that the
holy days "are (present tense) a shadow of what is to come" (Col. 2:17)
in no way lessens the Christian's obligation to keep them. (The present
tense reference to the holy days is interesting by itself, indicating
continued Church observance.) Indeed, for the Christian, who can now see
in these God-ordained feasts the profound spiritual substance of
salvation through Jesus Christ, the imperative to keep the holy days is
far greater now than ever.
The holy days serve as an outline or picture of God's
salvation plan-both for the individual and for mankind in general. This
understanding is based on a multitude of scriptures and is ultimately
derived from the examples of Jesus and the New Testament writers who
expound the meaning of some of the celebrations in unequivocal terms.
The holy days not only teach us God's plan of
salvation, they point us directly to our Savior Jesus Christ. Christ is
our Passover. It is by putting on Christ that we put out sin (Unleavened
Bread). Christ was the first of the first-fruits, and it was through His
resurrection that we can receive the Holy Spirit as Counselor,
Comforter, or Advocate (Pentecost). It is Christ who is going to
intervene in world affairs on the Day of Trumpets and become King of
kings and Lord and lords. Those who have accepted Christ are now at one
with Him through baptism and His Spirit-having their sins forgiven.
Christ is coming to set up His government in the Millennium and rule
this earth, and His people are now preparing the way for and are
representatives of that Kingdom by following in Christ's footsteps
(Feast of Tabernacles). Finally, Christ shall make salvation available
to everyone in the last great step of His plan, which is the ultimate
conclusion of His personal sacrifice as our Savior (Last Great Day).
The Church keeps God's annual holy days in their true
spiritual intent as constant reminders of the plan of God. It stresses
their spiritual meaning just as Paul did in I Corinthians 5 when he
wrote: "Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival with the unleavened
bread of sincerity and truth."
Passover: The bread and wine which Jesus instituted
at His last supper and which are taken yearly by the Church today are
explained symbolically both by Jesus Himself and by the apostle Paul.
The wine represents the shed blood of Jesus who gave Himself as an
offering to pay for all the sins of mankind. That full and complete
sacrifice makes it possible for one to have any and all sins forgiven
upon repentance. The wine also represents the New Covenant made between
God and the Christian by the blood of Christ.
The bread represents the body of Jesus which was torn
and beaten for us all, in Christ's ultimate sacrifice for mankind.
Perhaps the fullest discussion of its meaning is found in John 6, in
which it is shown that Jesus is the "bread of life." The eating of the
bread and the drinking of the wine represent partaking of the eternal
life which only God can give. The beaten body of Christ also represents
the stripes He took on His back enabling us to claim the gift of divine
healing for our physical infirmities (Is. 53:4-5; I Pet. 2:24).
The purpose of the foot washing ceremony is explained
by Jesus Himself as being to show true humility and the proper sense of
service (John. 13:12-17). No one can be greater than His Lord, who is
Jesus Christ; yet Jesus was the greatest servant of all and gave more
than anyone else for mankind. This spirit of Christian love and service
is expressed symbolically by washing another person's feet and then
allowing that person to reciprocate.
Thus, the Passover represents Christ's sacrifice for
all- both the individual and the world-and pictures the initial step in
salvation. Only through acceptance of this sacrifice can one repent and
be forgiven. Repentance is the first stave in individual conversion.
'The Feast of Unleavened Bread: Leaven is used to
symbolize a number of things, both good and bad. In relation to this
festival it is a negative symbol, representing sin (I Cor. 5:6-8). The
putting out of leaven from one's house pictures ridding one's life of
sin as a continual process. It also represents the action of the new
convert in attempting to leave the world (symbolized by ancient Egypt)
and in removing sin from his life. Conversely, the positive act of
eating unleavened bread represents our conscious desire to actively seek
a sinless way of life in following God's laws.
The crossing of the Red Sea is symbolic of baptism (I
Cor. 10:1-2). Ancient Israel crossed the Red Sea sometime during the
Feast of Unleavened Bread (some commentators suggest on the last day).
The new convert soon finds that it is not so easy to leave "Egypt" (the
world), that "Pharaoh's army" (sin) comes pursuing him. But God provides
help and leads him safely through baptism, driving back the power of
temptation, sin and the world through His Holy Spirit.
Pentecost: Pentecost is the anniversary of the
founding of the New Testament Church. It initiates God's plan of
salvation for the world. Just as Pentecost marked the spring or first
harvest, so Pentecost symbolizes the first small harvest of individuals
through God's Church. In the salvation of the individual, Pentecost
represents his receiving of the Holy Spirit after baptism. This Holy
Spirit enables him to do what he could not do before, just as the
disciples were able to go forward in spreading the gospel in a way
totally impossible before the Holy Spirit came. An example is Peter's
boldness in proclaiming the gospel so soon after clear cowardice when
Jesus was betrayed. (A late Jewish tradition holds that ancient Israel
received the law from God at Mount Sinai on Pentecost. This would make
sense, since only through God's Holy Spirit can a person keep God's law
in its true spiritual intent.).
Feast of Trumpets: Trumpets were an instrument often
used to sound the alarm for war. They were also the instrument of the
watchman to arouse the sleeping populace if danger threatened. This
festival represents the preaching of the gospel to the world by God's
faithful watchmen who have the responsibility of arousing the people
from their spiritual slumber (Ezek. 33:1-16). At this point, God has
ceased to let mankind go his own way. The time has come to save not just
a few in His Church, but all peoples-to save man from himself.
Otherwise, man would succeed in destroying himself.
The Day of Trumpets also symbolizes the resurrection
of all who died in Christ and the change of all who will be living in
Christ. This stunning event-the achievement of eternal life for millions
through birth into the Family of God-will occur simultaneously with the
return of Jesus Christ at the last trump. "In a moment, in the twinkling
of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead
shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (I Cor. 15:52).
Jewish tradition adds some interesting parallels. For
example, the Day of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) is said to picture the most
important judgement time, when the inhabitants of the world shall be
judged by the Creator. Furthermore, Tishri I was considered by some
Jewish commentators to be the beginning. of Creation-which would create
a complete parallelism, since this shall be fulfilled by the "Day of the
Lord," the time of the Creator's physical return to His creation as
Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord and lords.
Day of Atonement: The Day of Atonement symbolizes
both the reunion of God and man after Christ returns to earth, and the
binding of Satan to render him inactive. The evils of human nature are
the attitude of Satan the devil. As long as the source of evil remains
active, evil will have a part in subverting the world. At this time, the
sins of the world shall, correctly, be placed on their source, as
symbolized by the Azazel goat which was sent away into the wilderness.
Satan shall be chained and no longer allowed to deceive the world (Rev.
20:1-3). This is not to diminish our own role in sin, for the Day of
Atonement also represents the reuniting of God and man through the
sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the sins of mankind.
Feast of Tabernacles: This festival analogously acts
out the Millennium-the 1,000 years of Christ's reign on earth. The true
harvest of mankind can now take place. Without Satan-the source of
evil-around, all nations can be brought to God. For 1,000 years, a
Golden Age shall reign: happiness and peace shall be reality and
worldwide salvation shall be. This harvest of persons is far larger than
the first as the fall harvest is much the larger harvest season in the
agricultural cycle. The Millennium shall be the time when God sets His
hand to save the world. It shall be a time of rebuilding, the forging of
a new modern society under God's laws.*
* An interesting interpretation of the Feast of
Tabernacles as symbolic of the millennial reign of Christ is found in
the writings of the late third century Catholic commentator, Methodius.
Although he evidently did not keep the festival himself, he perceived
it-perhaps reflecting an earlier tradition-as picturing a time when the
"earthy tabernacles" would be put off and Christians made immortal would
celebrate the true feast (Symposium 9.1).
The Last Great Day: Despite a thousand years of peace
and happiness, it must be remembered that untold millions have lived and
died without ever having had the knowledge to understand salvation. The
Last Great Day represents the time when they shall be resurrected and
given that chance-not a second chance but a first chance, a chance they
will not have had before. Only then shall God's initial plan for mankind
be at an end. Thus, this last great holy day of God pictures the
greatest period of salvation for mankind-the Great White Throne Judgment
The culmination of the plan of salvation is marked by
the renewal of the whole creation in the new heaven and the new Earth
(Rev. 21). Death and destruction are now no more; human history is now
at and end. The Kingdom of God has become eternal.
Observance in the Church of God
The Church observes these same holy days given by God
in the Old Testament, and upheld and kept by the Church of God and the
apostles in the New.
The major distinguishing feature of the annual holy
days is their spiritual function and significance. They provide the
opportunity to forget the mundane day-to-day cares of the world and to
concentrate on the things of God. In addition to private worship and
devotion, church services are held just as on the weekly Sabbath. At
these services, the spiritual significance of the particular festival or
holy day is generally the theme of the sermons.
The need for periodic festival celebrations seems
intrinsic to all human beings. It is doubtful whether there has been a
human culture in recorded history without certain annual or periodic
observances. This need is met in the Church today in the manner our
Creator ordained, by continuing to maintain the annual festivals kept in
the Old Testament and by the early Church. Like the weekly Sabbath,
these days have necessary spiritual, psychological and physical
The functions of the annual holy days are partly the
same as those of the weekly Sabbath. They provide physical rest from the
regular routine. Yet there are a number of differences on the purely
physical plane of observance. The annual festival periods provide high
points of the year as social occasions on which to see friends and
relatives and during which one can have the means and the leisure to
enjoy good food and recreation.
Psychologically, the annual festivals usually allow a
more lengthy break from regular routine than does the weekly rest day.
They are something to look forward to. They provide the occasion for
doing things as a family unit. While they differ somewhat from the
traditional modern holiday or vacation, their psychological function is
very similar, especially for those who do not have other vacation
periods during the year.
One of the major differences of the annual festivals
from the weekly Sabbath is that Church members are enjoined to follow
the biblical injunction of Deuteronomy 14:22-26, and set aside up to one
tenth (or tithe) of their income in a special fund for use in
celebrating these days. (See Tithing and Giving.) This provides the
opportunity for the enjoyment of extra-special food and drink. During
the non-holy days of a festival, suitable recreation is also encouraged,
especially for the family unit. A special offering is taken on the
annual Sabbaths in accord with Deuteronomy 16:16-17.
In addition to regular church services on each of the
annual holy days, the following festivals have their own special
The Passover [Lord's Supper]
is observed in the evening at the
beginning of Nisan 14 in a very solemn ceremony, the most structured of
any of the annual assemblies. The order, is first the foot washing
service, then the taking of the bread, and finally the drinking of the
wine. Before each part of the ceremony appropriate scriptures are read.
The service is concluded by a reading of selections from John 13-17. The
next night, the evening at the end of the 14th and the beginning of the
15th, is marked by a joyous celebration of small groups in individual
homes. This is, of course, the time of the Exodus of Israel from Egypt.
The entire seven-day period is a time of eating only unleavened food
products. All leaven is removed from the homes before sunset [even] at the end
of the 14th.
The Day of Atonement is kept by a complete fast (no
food or drink) from sunset [even] to sunset [even]. (Exceptions are of course made by
the individuals themselves in cases of serious illness and the like.).
The Feast of Tabernacles is considered the highlight
of the sacred year. It is primarily for this festival that Church
members save special funds. Since the Feast of Tabernacles is celebrated
only in certain central locations, most members must travel a certain
distance to attend, and spend the entire time away from home. While
actual booths are no longer built, the same symbolism is maintained by
the fact that Church members live in temporary dwellings (motels,
hotels, campsites) away from home. Of course, in order to spend the
eight days away from home, as well as to meet the expense of travel to
and from the place of assembly, saving ahead is necessary (cf. Deut.
Along with the weekly Sabbath, these festivals place
worship and service of God at the forefront of the minds of Church
members. Rather than taking over former heathen celebrations which have
been syncretized with Christian observance or making up celebrations
without any precedent, the real human need of regular festive
celebrations is met by age-old, God-ordained observances clearly
attested in the Bible itself. The days carry a symbolic teaching which
looks forward as well as backward and places God squarely in the
center-the focus of its range of vision.
The Old Testament prophets looked forward to the rule
of God's Kingdom on the earth (a time identified as the 1,000 year rule
of Christ described in Revelation 20). Some of these prophets describe
holy day observance in several passages.
these passages is Ezekiel 40-48, in which an eschatological temple is
pictured in detail. Along with the weekly Sabbath (described under
Sabbath), the annual festivals are referred to in a general way in
several verses (45:17; 46:9,11). The Passover and Feast of unleavened
Bread and the Feast of Tabernacles are named specifically (45:21-25) as
being kept in the prophetic Kingdom of God. Zechariah 14:16-19 pictures
a time when all nations shall come up to Jerusalem to worship at the
Feast of Tabernacles. Those who refuse shall be punished by natural
disaster until they repent and worship as God desires. This demonstrates
that the annual festivals of God are not restricted to Israel but rather
are designed for the entirety of mankind.
READ THESE SCRIPTURES FROM YOUR OWN BIBLE:
Leviticus 23 - Description of the Holy
Joshua 5:10-11 - Describes the first
Passover after Israel crossed the Jordan.
John 2:13 - Jesus
keeps Passover in Jerusalem.
John 6:1-4 - Jesus keeps Passover in
region of Galilee.
- Jesus keeps Feast of
Church begins on Day of
Day of Atonement
1 Cor. 16:8: Pentecost
"Cleanse out the old
on how to take the Lord's supper.
Paul states that Holy Days
(present tense) are a shadow of what is to come-Plan of God.
Jesus is the "bread of
1 Peter 2:24: By His
broken body we are healed.
- Jesus institutes foot
1 Corinthians 15:52
- The Resurrection.
- Satan chained for
- New heavens and new
- Set aside a tenth of
your income to enjoy the Holy Days.
- Bring offerings
before the Lord on the Holy Days.
1] The primary purpose of the Holy Days are:
a) to afford the church more opportunity for fellowship.
b) test our obedience to God.
c) to reveal the Plan of God.
2] The Holy Days fulfill the spiritual objective of being holy
convocations for the church today. True or False?
3] Complete this sentence: The Passover represents the sacrifice of
4] The bread we take at Passover represents the _______of Christ.
The wine represents His ____.
5] The Feast of Unleavened Bread is symbolic of:
a) putting sin out of our lives.
c) the entire Salvation Process.
d) practicing a new Godly way of life.
e) all of the above.
6] Pentecost pictures:
a) the foundation of the New Testament church.
b) the sending of the Holy Spirit for the individual.
7] The first clear reference to the annual festival days is found in:
a) Exodus 10
b) Leviticus 23
c) Exodus 12
d) Leviticus 26
8] The most complete description of the annual Holy Days is found in:
a) Exodus 12
b) Exodus 23
c) Leviticus 23
d) Leviticus 26
9] Which of the following are true of the Days of Unleavened Bread:
a) 7 days long.
b) member eats no leavened products.
c) no leavened products are to be found in the home.
d) includes two Holy Days.
e) all of the above.
f) a, b and d only.
10] Pentecost is the only day which is determined by counting 50 days
a) the Sabbath.
b) the day after the Sabbath.
c) the Monday after the Sabbath.
11] In counting Pentecost, to determine which day is the Holy Day, we
count 7 Sabbaths beginning with the day after the Sabbath during the
Days of Unleavened Bread. We count from:
a) a Saturday to a Saturday.
b) a Sunday to a Sunday.
c) a Monday to a Monday.
12] Hence the Day of Pentecost is always on a:
Old Testament Examples and History
13] There are no specific examples of the Holy Days being kept in the
Old Testament times (Joshua-Malachi). True or False?
14] Which of the following statements are false regarding new moons:
a) they were used to mark the beginning of a new month.
b) were held in a special regard.
c) were Holy convocations.
d) sacrifices were offered.
e) were not especially used to determine new months after early
centuries A. D.
Holy Days in the New Testament
15] The primary reason one does not see extensive discourse in the New
Testament on the Holy Days is because everyone was keeping them.
True or False?
16] Jesus never actually kept any of the Holy Days while He was on
earth. True or False?
17] Which of the following are true statements about Jesus:
a) betrayed during the Passover [Lord's Supper].
b) scripture records Him keeping at least 3 Passovers.
c) keeps the Feast of Tabernacles.
18] On what Holy Day did the New Testament church begin?
19] The imperative to keep the Holy Days is far greater now than ever.
True or False?
20] The drinking of the wine and eating of the bread at Passover (Lord's
a) partaking the Law of God into our minds.
b) partaking Grace into our hearts.
c) partaking of eternal life into us.
21] The purpose of the footwashing service is to show:
a) piety and righteousness.
b) humility and service.
c) repentance and forgiveness
22] The Passover represents Christ sacrifice. This sacrifice was:
a) for a chosen few.
b) the 144,000.
c) the whole world.
23] According to 1 Cor. 10:1-2, the crossing of the Red Sea is symbolic
24] The children of Israel crossed the Red Sea during what Holy Day
25] According to some commentaries and Jewish tradition...
a) Israel crossed the Red Sea on the last Holy Day of the Days of
b) The Law was given at Mt. Sinai on the Day of Pentecost.
True or False?
26] Trumpets symbolizes:
a) the return of Christ.
b) the spread of the gospel.
c) the first resurrection.
d) important judgment time for mankind.
e) answer "a" only.
f) all of the above.
27] What day
symbolizes the putting away of Satan for 1,000 years?
28] The Atonement Azazel goat represents:
d) all of the above
29] The Feast of Tabernacles pictures:
a) the life of Jesus Christ on earth.
b) the putting away of Satan for 1,000 years.
c) the millennial reign of Christ.
d) the first resurrection.
30] The Last Great Day represents a time when all who lived but never
truly knew Christ will be resurrected. True or False?
31] The Second Resurrection, in which billions will be brought back to
a) their second chance at Salvation.
b) their first and only chance at Salvation.
c) a first chance for some and a second chance for others.
32] The Last Great Day also pictures eternity after the time of the
Second Resurrection. True or False?
Observance in the Church of God
33] God commands that we bring a Holy Day offering before Him on each of
the Holy Days. Where in scripture do we find this:
a) Matthew 24
b) Revelation 20
c) Deuteronomy 16
d) Isaiah 40
34] On which of the Holy Days are we to keep a complete fast (no food or
water) for 24 full hours?
35] The Feast of Tabernacles will be kept in the Millennium. Where
do we read this in the Old Testament?
a) Leviticus 23
b) Joshua 13
c) Zechariah 14
d) Isaiah 53