Feast Days

And their significance in the Christian era

From the beginning of time God knew the journey that sin would take the human race, and in fact, the whole universe, before the virus of evil would be eradicated. He had a cosmic plan by which He could save the integrity of His throne, His government, and His people. This plan would include not only the final destruction of the wicked, but the sacrifice of His only Son. The onlooking universe must be able to see and understand the issues of the controversy between good and evil so thoroughly that sin would not arise a second time.

But it was not enough that the Godhead, or even the angelic hosts, be privy to the information contained in that master plan. God purposed to unveil this plan to the human race as well. He would do it in such a way that His people of every generation could comprehend what was necessary for them in order to cooperate fully with the light needed for their time in history. Generation after generation would come and go before His Son, the Messiah and Redeemer, would come. In the meantime, His true followers must have a frame of reference for their worship and their focus to keep their hearts in tune with Him, and prevent them from following the customs and heathen worship practices of the people around them.

Thus God set up the Sanctuary services and rituals, all so laden with mysterious meaning, and well calculated by the omniscient mind of God to foreshadow the entire history and intricate details of the plan of salvation. The structure of these ceremonies and rituals would encompass the entirety of knowledge necessary to instruct the people of every generation what God would have them to know in order for them to exemplify the teachings of His Word and His truth. Light would shine brighter and brighter from these rituals for those who would delve deeply into their true meaning, and especially as they pointed forward to the coming of the Messiah and the details of His mission and work.

But it was not until Jesus actually came in the flesh, lived and ministered and died and rose again, that the mysteries of the Sanctuary and the feast days and ceremonies actually began to be understood. After Jesus ascended to His Father’s throne and began His work there in behalf of His people on earth, the Holy Spirit could reveal to the minds of the people who were truly open and searching, what the Old Testament services were really all about. But even then, there was so much yet to be revealed; so much yet to be comprehended and understood, for the work of Christ in the Heavenly Sanctuary had only begun.

So it remains for us still to study to understand these wonderful revelations of the plan of God to reclaim His chosen inheritance. May we be willing to learn and follow the instructions and truths found there which are appropriate and even necessary for our generation.

The first thing I believe we need to know to unlock the mysteries hidden in the times and rituals of the Feast Days is that they prefigure the work of Jesus in saving mankind. The Spring Feasts – Passover, Firstfruits, or Unleavened Bread, and Pentecost – pointed forward to and were fulfilled by Jesus first coming. The fall feasts – Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles – point forward to and are fulfilled by His second coming. In recognition of the important lessons to be learned from these feasts, many sincere Christians are studying the meaning of these feasts for our day, and a growing number are suggesting that we should keep them until Jesus comes again. In lieu of the questions raised by those who advocate a reinstatement of the keeping of the feast days, I would like to submit this study.

Having already stated the purpose of the Feast Days as being a prefiguring of the work of Jesus in saving mankind, let’s look at the spring feasts and see what was to be learned about Jesus’ first coming by these feasts. While the Passover was seen by the Jews to be a perpetual memorial of the escape from Egypt by the Israelite nation, it also is clearly prophetic of the sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God, and His role as the protector of those who choose Him and the efficacy of His shed blood. This feast also points forward to the time of His second coming and the final deliverance of His people from this lazar house of sin and the dominion of Satan.

The second feast, called the Feast of Unleavened Bread, began on the day following the Passover, and lasted for seven days. On the second day of the feast, a sheaf of newly cut barley was waved before the Lord as a Firstfruits of the harvest. This ceremony is clearly fulfilled by Jesus, the “firstfruits of the dead” (1 Cor. 15:23), who was the first to break the hold of the grave and come forth in anticipation of all who would be resurrected by the power of His eternal life and godhead. This feast points forward to the time when all of God’s precious ones will be resurrected at Christ’s second coming.

Pentecost, or Feast of Weeks, or Harvest – also a type of Firstfruits — is the last of the spring feasts, and comes 50 days after the presenting of the wave sheaf on the second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Although the wave sheaf was a type of first fruits, being the firstfruits of the winter crop, the feast of Pentecost was a celebration of the firstfruits of the entire harvest. This was first fulfilled in the upper room when the disciples and all who were assembled there received the baptism of the Holy Spirit to prepare them for the work of taking the gospel to the whole world, — Jews and Gentiles alike. This outpouring and anointing was an earthly response to the heavenly anointing of Jesus, accepting His sacrifice, and anointing Him for His work as High Priest in the heavenly Sanctuary.

This feast also looks forward to the firstfruits as seen in Revelation 14:4, when the 144,000 are presented to God as the firstfruits of the earth, the living saints who have overcome the world, the flesh and the devil, and who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. They are the living representatives of all who have gone before them, and they have followed Jesus in His final cleansing work in the second apartment of the Sanctuary in heaven, and have overcome as He overcame (Rev. 3:21). They are the finished product of the plan of salvation – the first of the children of Adam to cross the finish line by the blood of Jesus and become eternal proof that sin is not necessary – that faith in Jesus, who “saves His people from their sins,” is eradicable by following our Lord and submitting to His love and grace.

The fall feasts – Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles ­– are fulfilled in connection with the second coming of Jesus. Clustered around this momentous event, they are intended to draw attention to it, help God’s people to be prepared for it, and celebrate it when it becomes a reality. In the Jewish cycle of feasts and sacred convocations, the blowing of trumpets came at the beginning of the civil year, and announced the nearness of the Day of Atonement. For nine days trumpets were blown, alerting the people to prepare themselves, their families, and their homes for the Day of Atonement. On the tenth day – the Day of Atonement — the people were to fast and spend the day searching their hearts to see if any sin remained, while the High Priest carried on his sacred work of cleansing the Sanctuary.

The last feast, or Feast of Tabernacles, was commemorative of the time when the Israelites lived in tents in the wilderness for 40 years. But it also looked forward to the great ingathering of God’s people when Jesus comes and we journey for seven days ascending to our heavenly home. For the Israelites, this feast was the happiest of all. The fall harvest was over and the fruit had been gathered in. The Day of Atonement was past, and all sins had been confessed and put away, and all misunderstandings between people had been cleared up, and erased from the mind. Friends and neighbors renewed fellowships and dwelt together in love and harmony. Truly, this feast was prophetic of the time when we will all live together in peace and eternal happiness in the heavenly Canaan.

As you may have noticed, there is a continual mingling of meanings here in the consideration of the significance of the feast days. They were intended to be at once commemorative, as well as prophetic. They were to keep alive the lessons and important experiences of the past, as well as cast light on the future hope of an eternal resolution to the sin problem. So the question is, how are we to relate to the feast days today, since they are still in the process of fulfillment? Does their future fulfillment mean that we still have an obligation to observe the yearly cycle of feast days until they are completely fulfilled? Some think so, but is this the Biblical interpretation of the meaning of the feast days for Christians since the first Advent of Christ? It is not my purpose to do an exhaustive study on this question in this paper, but to give some insights which may help to clarify some of the issues. To that end I will proceed to the next section of this study.

First I want to say that the present interest in the meaning of the feast days is no doubt a sign that there are things that we need to know in order to be preparing for the second coming of Jesus, just as the Holy Spirit and heavenly angels ministered to the people before the first coming of Christ, stirring up interest in the Messianic prophecies for those who were searching for truth. Thus, we need to be careful to have open hearts for every ray of light that comes to us to help us understand present truth for our times.

On the other hand, Satan is always present, especially at such times, to obscure and misinterpret light to suit his own diabolical purposes. The way of truth and error is often found very close together, and it behooves us all to be diligent students, wise in the way of the Lord and “rightly dividing” the way of truth. There are numerous flashing lights and guideposts to help us not to get off the path, no matter how many plausible explanations we may hear from various sources. The Scriptures themselves, of course, are of primary importance. But even the Scriptures can be wrested from their context, and Satan is getting more adept at doing this as the centuries roll on. Nevertheless, here are some important texts that speak to this subject:

Dan. 9:26, 27 – “And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off…. And He shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week He shall cause the sacrifice and the oblations to cease.”

Acts 15:5-11 – “Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, ‘The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.’ The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: ‘Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that He accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as He did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for He purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.’”

Their conclusion: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.” Vs. 28, 29.

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross…. Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however is found in Christ.” Col. 2:13-15.

“Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’ These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” Vs. 20-23.

“For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.” Eph. 2:14-22.

Then there are some Spirit of Prophecy quotations that are significant:

“Through Christ the hidden glory of the holy of holies was to stand revealed…. The mercy seat, upon which the glory of God rested in the holiest of all, is opened to all who accept Christ as the propitiation for sin, and through its medium, they are brought into fellowship with God. The veil is rent, the partition walls broken down, the handwriting of ordinances cancelled. By virtue of His blood the enmity is abolished. Through faith in Christ Jew and Gentile may partake of the living bread. In Christ the shadow reached its substance.” 5 BC 1109.

“Type had met antitype in the death of God’s Son. The Lamb of God had been offered as a sacrifice. It was as if a voice had said to the worshippers, ‘There is now an end to all sacrifices and offerings…. This act signified to the heavenly universe, and to a world corrupted by sin, that a new and living way had been opened to the fallen race, that all sacrificial offerings terminated in the one great offering of the Son of God.” Ibid.

“The typical service and the ceremonies connected with it were abolished at the cross. The great antitypical Lamb of God had become an offering for guilty man, and the shadow ceased in the substance.” 6 BC 1061.

“With the great sacrifice offered upon Calvary, ended that system of offerings which for four thousand years had pointed forward to the Lamb of God. Type had met antitype, and all the sacrifices and oblations of the ceremonial system were there to cease.” GC 328.

Now some quotes that are from the Bible Commentaries (Not EGW):

“What he (Paul) is saying is that Christians are no longer obliged to carry out the requirements of the ceremonial law…. The ceremonial ordinances contain commandments for the observance of various holy days—the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles….

“The type of sabbath under consideration is shown by the phrase ‘which are a shadow of things to come’ (Col. 2:17)…. The ‘sabbath days’ Paul declares to be shadows pointing to Christ cannot refer to the weekly Sabbath designated by the fourth commandment, but must indicate the ceremonial rest days that reach their realization in Christ and His kingdom…. All the items the apostle lists in v. 16 are ‘shadows,’ or types, symbolizing the reality that is Christ. A shadow has no substance; it is cast by something substantial. Compare the use of the word ‘shadow’ in Heb. 8:5: ‘They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven.’ The Jewish ceremonies were shadows cast by heavenly realities. Christ’s life, ministry, and kingdom are the reality. The portrayal of this in the ceremonial law was only the shadow….

“In contrast with the shadow, Jesus is the fullness of reality. It is to Him that every type points, and in Him that every symbol reaches its fullness. In finding Him, Christians turn their backs upon the typical, shadowy outlines, walking now in the fullness of the divine Presence.

“In these verses Paul has completely removed the ground from beneath the feet of the Judaizing false teachers. They advocated a return to Judaic ceremonial requirements. The apostle meets their arguments by asserting that the shadows have served their function now that Christ, the reality, has come.” 7 BC 205, 206.

But what about the sincere Christians of today who are feeling that there is yet significance in the feast days which would indicate that we should keep them yearly as they were before the first coming of Christ? First, I would ask, Where is this resurgence of interest in the feast days coming from? Is it something Scriptural that has been rediscovered at this time which would propel us to reinstate the keeping of these rituals which pointed forward to Christ and His sacrifice, and subsequently His work for us in the heavenly Sanctuary?

First, I want to say that I see several dangers, here. As the second coming of Jesus is obviously nearing, it seems that errors of various types are proliferating throughout Christendom. In our eagerness to be prepared for that climactic event, it is easy to search for ways to be more diligent in our awareness of, and preparation for, that most momentous event when Jesus shall arrive to take His people home. But I see a common thread running through the various new ideas (or ones that are resurrected from the past) that have a familiar ring to them. It started back in the courts of heaven when Lucifer challenged the throne of God, and specifically targeted the position of Christ. It was an attempted takeover of the place in heaven that belonged only to Christ. And in each new theory, I can see the same line of thinking, though more carefully veiled.

For example, what about the theory that the “daily” of Daniel 8:11-13 which was “cast down” is paganism – not the ministry of Christ in the heavenly Sanctuary, and that the Prince of the Host is not Christ, but the pagan king or ruler? What vital truth is obviously being undermined by this belief? It seems obvious that the truth about Jesus’ work (the “continual” or “daily”) in the heavenly Sanctuary is being undermined by this interpretation of Daniel 8:11-13.

And what about the idea that the Holy Spirit is not an individual and separate being from God and Jesus, but just an essence of them? What does this do to undermine the intercessory work of Jesus, when He said in John 16:5-15 that He was going back to heaven, and would send the Counselor, or Comforter – the Holy Spirit – who would teach them all truth, and would bring glory to Him by taking from what was His and making it known to them? Obviously, the Holy Spirit is the avenue by which the ministry of Jesus in the Sanctuary is made accessible to His people!

And what about the popular theory that everything in salvation is done at the cross? Rightly understood, the earthly Sanctuary taught the vital truth that while the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross paid the full and complete price and penalty for our sins, there was more to the Sanctuary service than just the cross – there was also the continuing work of Jesus for His people after He went back to heaven to begin His ministry there, extending to the very end of probationary time. Satan is quite satisfied with an emphasis on a dead Christ hanging on the cross, but He is deathly afraid of an emphasis which points to a living Savior who is in heaven now interceding for us!

Many Christians today believe that there must be a temple built on the temple mount in Jerusalem before Jesus comes, so they are giving time, money and emphasis on this project. Again, this takes the eyes of people off of Jesus’ present work in the heavenly Sanctuary and places their focus upon earth, while giving believers the feeling that they are participating in a very important work for Jesus that will help Him to come back sooner.

And the list could go on – the new emphasis on “centering prayer,” (ie, focusing on and finding the “god-consciousness” within), the importance of having a “spiritual director” to whom we are to tell all our struggles, pain, and deep emotions, etc. But as I said, there is a common thread running through all of it – each false theory undermines the understanding of our complete dependence upon Jesus and His intercessory work in the heavenly Sanctuary. Satan doesn’t care what else you believe, what good works you do, or what intensity you may feel about the nearness of Christ’s coming, as long as you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus in His present, on-going cleansing work in the heavenly Sanctuary.

Now what has all this to do with the present emphasis of some Christians, that the keeping of the feast days is vital in our preparation for Jesus to come? I do believe that there are important lessons that we are to glean from the light shining from the feast days. Just as the earthly Sanctuary was prophetic of what Jesus is now doing in the heavenly, so the feast days were and are prophetic about His ministry, even until He comes again. But whatever light we may glean, it should not take away from the fact that Jesus is now the reality of what the feast days were meant to teach. Whatever we learn, it should be about Him and what He is now doing and what He is going to do. Remember: Every false theory has at its core the desire of the devil to draw focus from Jesus and cast the truth to the ground (Dan. 8:12). Subtly, the focus becomes dependence upon people, rituals, self, works or whatever will take our eyes and our dependence away from Jesus. From the cross on, our focus is to be Jesus Himself and what He is now doing in heaven for us, not in earthly shadows that can redirect our minds more on what we are doing and less on what Jesus is doing.

For some this may be hard to separate from our weekly keeping of the Sabbath and our regularly scheduled observance of communion. But the Sabbath is a perpetual, eternal memorial of creation, and communion is a remembrance of His death until He comes again. These two observances are clearly outlined in Scripture; but there are no Scriptural guidelines for a yearly observance of the feast days after the cross. Doing this, then, becomes a personal choice to resurrect keeping the feast days from Old Testament guidelines, minus the animal sacrifices and the Sanctuary rituals, with each person deciding for themselves or in a group what is the proper way. I have heard of some strange ways of interpreting this, and no wonder, since there are no Scriptural guidelines past the cross.

I’ve also heard it said that if we do not keep the feast days, we will be lost. As we have already noted, Paul called those who emphasized such things as “Judaizers.” He did not say it was wrong to observe personal rituals concerning food, special days, and such, but in Romans 14 he made it clear that we should not be judging one another about these personal beliefs.

My biggest concern in the feast days movement, is that our human nature, once becoming convinced that certain personal beliefs are important to us, will now begin to try to get others to join our persuasion and feel that there is special merit before God in doing so. Not only that, but there is a growing tendency among those who believe in the keeping of the feast days, to lump the ceremonial holy days with the 7th-day-Sabbath of the 4th commandment. This will create untold confusion if carried out to feel, as some do, that all “sabbaths,” both ceremonial and the Sabbath of the 4th commandment, are equally holy and binding. What a ploy of the evil one this is to obscure the sacredness and eternal nature of the 7th-day-Sabbath, and to confuse precious, conscientious souls, especially as we near the time when the Sabbath-Sunday issue will become prominent.

Dear friends, we have enough to do to keep our eyes focused on Jesus moment by moment, letting Him lead and guide us every day, and learning the precious lessons and gems of truth that He gives us daily from His work in the heavenly Sanctuary for us. Let us not collect and add on meaningless restrictions and ceremonies from the shadows of things that pointed forward to the reality of Christ. But if we choose to do so – if we feel this brings us closer to Jesus, at least let us not judge one another in these things. Lift Him up! Lift Jesus up in our own lives and the lives of those around us! Let the focus of our lives and witness be upon Him, and we will not go astray or lead others astray.

“Satan invents unnumbered schemes to occupy our minds, that they may not dwell upon the very work with which we ought to be best acquainted. The arch-deceiver hates the great truths that bring to view an atoning sacrifice and an all-powerful Mediator. He knows that with him everything depends on his diverting minds from Jesus and His truth….

“The subject of the Sanctuary and the investigative judgment should be clearly understood by the people of God. All need a knowledge for themselves of the position and work of their great High Priest. Otherwise, it will be impossible for them to exercise the faith which is essential at this time, or to occupy the position which God designs them to fill….

“All who have received the light upon these subjects are to bear testimony of the great truths which God has committed to them. The Sanctuary in heaven is the very center of Christ’s work in behalf of men. It concerns every soul living upon the earth. It opens to view the plan of redemption, bringing us down to the very close of time, and revealing the triumphant issue of the contest between righteousness and sin. It is of the utmost importance that all should thoroughly investigate these subjects, and be able to give an answer to everyone that asketh them a reason of the hope that is in them.

“The intercession of Christ in man’s behalf in the Sanctuary above is as essential to the plan of salvation as was His death upon the cross. By His death He began that work which after His resurrection He ascended to complete in heaven. We must by faith enter within the veil, ‘whither the Forerunner is for us entered.’ There the light from the cross of Calvary is reflected. There we may gain a clearer insight into the mysteries of the redemption.” GC 488, 9.

“The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man…. The ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which He is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.” Heb. 8:1, 2, 6.

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith…. Let us encourage one another – and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Heb. 10:19-25.

“Therefore…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God.” Heb. 12:1, 2.

Focusing on a present, literal, yearly observance of the feast days is focusing on the shadows of good things to come, not the realities themselves. The Old Testament systems and rituals of worship, beginning with the sacrifices on the altar at the gate of the garden of Eden, were given as examples to teach us about the coming of Jesus and His work for us in the entire plan of salvation. Just as we are to study the earthly Sanctuary to help us to better understand and cooperate with the work of Jesus in the heavenly Sanctuary, so we should study the lessons taught by the feast days to better understand His present ministry as our High Priest and our coming King. The cluster of fall feasts are especially applicable to our day, and help us to understand the events surrounding His coming, beginning with the Advent Movement, and extending to His actual appearing to take us home. So there is much to learn from a careful study of the lessons found in the feast days.

But for every truth there is a counterfeit. Satan likes to ride in on truth, and then derail us into error. And the error always detracts us from a focus upon Christ in the heavenly Sanctuary and places our minds on something here on earth. There is light in a study of the feast days only as it opens our minds to understand better what Jesus is doing for us now, and what He will be doing until He comes. Let this be our study and the theme of our sharing with others. Let this be our focus, and we will be safe from the distractions and deceptions of our wily foe.