Since the Word of God doesn’t sanction the celebration of either Christmas or Easter and condemns the pagan embellishments associated with these humanly devised holidays, how should Christians worship God? Do annual celebrations exist that Christians should observe?
God has given us seven annual festivals, or feasts, on which to worship and honor Him. By observing them according to His Word, we can understand His ultimate plan for humanity. Let us now take note of the days God instructs us to formally worship Him on. His festivals are far more significant than this world’s holidays because they reveal His plan for humanity.
The first commanded day of worship
Leviticus 23 lists all of God’s commanded festivals in order. The first one is to be observed every week—the weekly Sabbath day (Leviticus 23:3 Leviticus 23:3Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; you shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings.
American King James Version×).
In the first book of the Bible, Genesis, we find that God created man on the sixth day of the creation week (Genesis 1:24-31 Genesis 1:24-31 24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creeps on the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
28 And God blessed them, and God said to them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.
29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creeps on the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.
31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
American King James Version×). “And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Genesis 2:2-3 Genesis 2:2-3 2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. 3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
American King James Version×).
The Hebrew word for “rested” is shabath and is related to the word Sabbath. Literally, God sabbathed, or rested; He ceased from the work of creating (Exodus 20:8-11 Exodus 20:8-11 8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shall you labor, and do all your work:
10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD your God: in it you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger that is within your gates:
11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: why the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
American King James Version×).
In resting, God also blessed and sanctified the seventh day as a gift for mankind (Genesis 2:2-3 Genesis 2:2-3 2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
American King James Version×; Exodus 16:29 Exodus 16:29See, for that the LORD has given you the sabbath, therefore he gives you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide you every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.
American King James Version×). To sanctify something means to set it apart as holy. Since God made the Sabbath holy (Exodus 16:23 Exodus 16:23And he said to them, This is that which the LORD has said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath to the LORD: bake that which you will bake to day, and seethe that you will seethe; and that which remains over lay up for you to be kept until the morning.
American King James Version×; Exodus 20:11; Nehemiah 9:14 Nehemiah 9:14And made known to them your holy sabbath, and commanded them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses your servant:
American King James Version×), He instructed those who follow Him to remember to keep it holy by resting on it as well (Exodus 20:8-11 Exodus 20:8-11 8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shall you labor, and do all your work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD your God: in it you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger that is within your gates: 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: why the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
American King James Version×; Deuteronomy 5:12-15 Deuteronomy 5:12-15 12 Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work: 14 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD your God: in it you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your ox, nor your ass, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger that is within your gates; that your manservant and your maidservant may rest as well as you. 15 And remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD your God brought you out there through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.
American King James Version×). Keeping the Sabbath, then, reminds us that God is our Creator.
Besides making the Sabbath for rest, God also revealed that the Sabbath is a day of worship. In Leviticus 23 He told Moses: “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings’ ” (Leviticus 23:1-3 Leviticus 23:1-3 1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
2 Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts.
3 Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; you shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings.
American King James Version×). Holy convocations are sacred assemblies for worship.
When Jesus Christ came to live as a human being on earth, He did not come to abolish or weaken God’s commands (Matthew 5:17 Matthew 5:17Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
American King James Version×). He came to “exalt the law and make it honorable” (Isaiah 42:21 Isaiah 42:21The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honorable.
American King James Version×). Jesus kept the Sabbath (Mark 1:21 Mark 1:21And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught.
American King James Version×; Mark 6:2 Mark 6:2And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From where has this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given to him, that even such mighty works are worked by his hands?
American King James Version×; Luke 4:16 Luke 4:16And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
American King James Version×; Luke 6:6 Luke 6:6And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered.
American King James Version×), as did His apostles and other members of the early Church (Acts 13:14 Acts 13:14But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.
American King James Version×; Acts 17:2 Acts 17:2And Paul, as his manner was, went in to them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,
American King James Version×). Gentile believers met with them on the Sabbath (Acts 13:42-44 Acts 13:42-44 42 And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles sought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath. 43 Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. 44 And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.
American King James Version×; Acts 18:4 Acts 18:4And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.
American King James Version×).
This blessing from God, enshrined in one of the Ten Commandments, did not change. The seventh day of the week—observed from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset—has continued as God’s commanded holy day for rest and worship. Even though misguided people later initiated a change to worshipping on Sunday, God’s command was never rescinded, nor was there biblical authorization for a change to the first day of the week.
This is only the briefest explanation of God’s Fourth Commandment. If you would like to discover much more about the biblical Sabbath, please download or request your free copy of our booklet Sunset to Sunset: God’s Sabbath Rest .
Besides the weekly Sabbath, God gave His people yearly festivals that correspond with the harvest seasons of Israel. These were also “holy convocations” to be observed at their appropriate times (Leviticus 23:4 Leviticus 23:4These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which you shall proclaim in their seasons.
American King James Version×) and represent God’s master plan of salvation for humankind.
Passover (Leviticus 23:5 Leviticus 23:5In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’s passover.
American King James Version×), which falls in early spring in the Holy Land, is a reminder of how God took the lives of all the firstborn Egyptian males (Exodus 12:7 Exodus 12:7And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.
American King James Version×, Exodus 12:26-29 Exodus 12:26-29 26 And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say to you, What mean you by this service? 27 That you shall say, It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped. 28 And the children of Israel went away, and did as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they. 29 And it came to pass, that at midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle.
American King James Version×) but passed over the Israelites’ homes because they had placed the blood of a sacrificed lamb on their doorposts.
The blood of the lamb foreshadowed the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which spares mankind from eternal death. In the New Testament, Christians came to understand that Christ is the true Passover Lamb (compare Exodus 12:21 Exodus 12:21Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said to them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover.
American King James Version×with 1 Corinthians 5:7 1 Corinthians 5:7Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
American King James Version×). In observing His last Passover with His disciples, Jesus explained that the symbols of bread and wine represent His body and blood, offered by Him for the forgiveness of our sins (Matthew 26:26-28 Matthew 26:26-28 26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink you all of it; 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
American King James Version×; Mark 14:22-24 Mark 14:22-24 22 And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. 23 And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.
American King James Version×).
The death of Christ then actually took place during the daylight hours that followed—which was still the same date according to Hebrew sunset-to-sunset reckoning. So He was sacrificed on Passover.
Our observance of this annual occasion marking Jesus’ death (1 Corinthians 11:26 1 Corinthians 11:26For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till he come.
American King James Version×) reminds us that eternal life is possible only through Him (John 6:47-54 John 6:47-54 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, He that believes on me has everlasting life. 48 I am that bread of life. 49 Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. 52 The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? 53 Then Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
American King James Version×; Acts 4:10-12 Acts 4:10-12 10 Be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him does this man stand here before you whole. 11 This is the stone which was set at nothing of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. 12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
American King James Version×). His sacrifice is the starting point for salvation and the foundation of the annual feast days that follow.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread
In conjunction with the Passover, God instituted the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread, which immediately follows (Leviticus 23:6-8 Leviticus 23:6-8 6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread to the LORD: seven days you must eat unleavened bread.
7 In the first day you shall have an holy convocation: you shall do no servile work therein.
8 But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: you shall do no servile work therein.
American King James Version×). Historically it commemorates the ancient Israelites fleeing Egypt in such haste that they didn’t have time to let their bread rise (Exodus 12:33-34 Exodus 12:33-34 33 And the Egyptians were urgent on the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men. 34 And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading troughs being bound up in their clothes on their shoulders.
American King James Version×). This feast came in Israel at the beginning of the early spring barley harvest.
God commanded the Israelites to keep this festival by removing leaven (yeast) out of their homes for seven days. The first and last days of this week-long festival were specifically set apart as holy convocations—annual Sabbaths—days devoted to rest and assembly for worship.
During His earthly ministry, Jesus identified leaven as a symbol of sin (Matthew 16:6-12 Matthew 16:6-12 6 Then Jesus said to them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.
8 Which when Jesus perceived, he said to them, O you of little faith, why reason you among yourselves, because you have brought no bread?
9 Do you not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets you took up?
10 Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets you took up?
11 How is it that you do not understand that I spoke it not to you concerning bread, that you should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?
12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
American King James Version×; Mark 8:15 Mark 8:15And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.
American King James Version×; Luke 12:1 Luke 12:1In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, so that they stepped one on another, he began to say to his disciples first of all, Beware you of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
American King James Version×). Thereafter members of the early Church continued to observe this festival by putting leaven out of their homes for the week as a symbol of the clean minds and attitudes God desires of His people (1 Corinthians 5:6-8 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 6 Your glorying is not good. Know you not that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 8 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.
American King James Version×). After accepting Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, we must follow His example in practicing righteousness.
It was during this festival that Jesus was raised from the dead—a vital factor for us to be led out of sin and on to God’s Kingdom.
The Feast of Pentecost
The third annual festival is the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost (Leviticus 23:16-21 Leviticus 23:16-21 16 Even to the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall you number fifty days; and you shall offer a new meat offering to the LORD.
17 You shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals; they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven; they are the first fruits to the LORD.
18 And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering to the LORD, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet smell to the LORD.
19 Then you shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings.
20 And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the first fruits for a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the LORD for the priest.
21 And you shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation to you: you shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.
American King James Version×; Acts 2:1 Acts 2:1And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
American King James Version×). This festival, also called the Feast of Harvest or Firstfruits (Exodus 23:16 Exodus 23:16And the feast of harvest, the first fruits of your labors, which you have sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when you have gathered in your labors out of the field.
American King James Version×; Exodus 34:22 Exodus 34:22And you shall observe the feast of weeks, of the first fruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year’s end.
American King James Version×), corresponding with the start of the late spring wheat harvest in Israel, was the day God miraculously granted His Spirit to the New Testament Church (Acts 2).
Pentecost continues to remind us that God is the Lord of His harvest, choosing and preparing the firstfruits of His coming Kingdom by granting them His Spirit (Matthew 9:38 Matthew 9:38Pray you therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.
American King James Version×; Luke 10:2 Luke 10:2Therefore said he to them, The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray you therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest.
American King James Version×; Romans 8:23 Romans 8:23And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
American King James Version×; James 1:18 James 1:18Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
American King James Version×). God’s Spirit empowers us with the love of God, the motivation to obey Him, and a sound mind to discern His truth (2 Timothy 1:7 2 Timothy 1:7For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
American King James Version×; John 15:26 John 15:26But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, he shall testify of me:
American King James Version×; John 16:13 John 16:13However, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.
American King James Version×). Only those led by God’s Spirit are called the sons of God (Romans 8:9-14 Romans 8:9-14 9 But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. 10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you. 12 Therefore, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 13 For if you live after the flesh, you shall die: but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
American King James Version×).
The Feast of Trumpets
The next feast day, in late summer or early fall in Israel, is the Feast of Trumpets (Leviticus 23:24-25 Leviticus 23:24-25 24 Speak to the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall you have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation.
25 You shall do no servile work therein: but you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.
American King James Version×). Ancient Israel understood that trumpets were used as a way of announcing special messages (Numbers 10:1-10 Numbers 10:1-10 1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 Make you two trumpets of silver; of a whole piece shall you make them: that you may use them for the calling of the assembly, and for the journeying of the camps. 3 And when they shall blow with them, all the assembly shall assemble themselves to you at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 4 And if they blow but with one trumpet, then the princes, which are heads of the thousands of Israel, shall gather themselves to you. 5 When you blow an alarm, then the camps that lie on the east parts shall go forward. 6 When you blow an alarm the second time, then the camps that lie on the south side shall take their journey: they shall blow an alarm for their journeys. 7 But when the congregation is to be gathered together, you shall blow, but you shall not sound an alarm. 8 And the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow with the trumpets; and they shall be to you for an ordinance for ever throughout your generations. 9 And if you go to war in your land against the enemy that oppresses you, then you shall blow an alarm with the trumpets; and you shall be remembered before the LORD your God, and you shall be saved from your enemies. 10 Also in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months, you shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; that they may be to you for a memorial before your God: I am the LORD your God.
American King James Version×).
The New Testament reveals a great event to be announced with the sounding of a trumpet—the return of Jesus Christ to the earth (Revelation 8:2 Revelation 8:2And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.
American King James Version×, Revelation 11:15 Revelation 11:15And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
American King James Version×). This day also pictures the time when faithful Christians who have died will be resurrected to life (1 Corinthians 15:52 1 Corinthians 15:52In 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.
American King James Version×; 1 Thessalonians 4:16 1 Thessalonians 4:16For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
American King James Version×) to reign with Christ for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:4-6 Revelation 20:4-6 4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark on their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
American King James Version×).
Interestingly, it was around this time of year that Jesus was born—not in the dead of winter (see “Biblical Evidence Shows Jesus Wasn’t Born on December 25 “). And the fall feast season represents the time when Christ will come to the earth again to reign in glory.
The remaining fall feast days describe steps in the establishment of the prophesied Kingdom of God on earth and judgment of humanity after Christ’s return.
The Day of Atonement
The Day of Atonement is the next holy convocation (Leviticus 23:26-32 Leviticus 23:26-32 26 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
27 Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation to you; and you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.
28 And you shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God.
29 For whatever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people.
30 And whatever soul it be that does any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people.
31 You shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
32 It shall be to you a sabbath of rest, and you shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even to even, shall you celebrate your sabbath.
American King James Version×). Observed by fasting (Leviticus 23:27 Leviticus 23:27Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation to you; and you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.
American King James Version×; compare Isaiah 58:3 Isaiah 58:3Why have we fasted, say they, and you see not? why have we afflicted our soul, and you take no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, and exact all your labors.
American King James Version×), refraining from eating or drinking (Esther 4:16 Esther 4:16Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast you for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in to the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.
American King James Version×), this day represents humanity’s need to be reconciled to God through the forgiveness of sin.
At the return of Christ, Satan the devil, who now leads mankind astray (Ephesians 2:2 Ephesians 2:2Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience:
American King James Version×; Revelation 12:9 Revelation 12:9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
American King James Version×), will be bound (Revelation 20:1-3 Revelation 20:1-3 1 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, 3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
American King James Version×) so the nations can be reconciled to the Father through Christ. Luke referred to this observance as “the fast” in Acts 27:9 Acts 27:9Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them,
American King James Version×.
The Feast of Tabernacles
The next festival period lasts for eight days (Leviticus 23:33-39 Leviticus 23:33-39 33 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
34 Speak to the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days to the LORD.
35 On the first day shall be an holy convocation: you shall do no servile work therein.
36 Seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation to you; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD: it is a solemn assembly; and you shall do no servile work therein.
37 These are the feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire to the LORD, a burnt offering, and a meat offering, a sacrifice, and drink offerings, every thing on his day:
38 Beside the sabbaths of the LORD, and beside your gifts, and beside all your vows, and beside all your freewill offerings, which you give to the LORD.
39 Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep a feast to the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath.
American King James Version×) and pictures the final steps in God’s master plan to bring all of humanity into His eternal family. It includes the last two of God’s annual festivals and marks the celebration of the completion of a full year of harvests. The two festivals symbolize the last two great spiritual harvests of human beings under the reign of Jesus Christ.
The first seven days, the Feast of Tabernacles, also known as the Feast of Ingathering to mark this great harvest period (Exodus 23:16 Exodus 23:16And the feast of harvest, the first fruits of your labors, which you have sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when you have gathered in your labors out of the field.
American King James Version×), pictures the 1,000-year rule of Jesus Christ immediately following His return to the earth (see Revelation 20:4-6 Revelation 20:4-6 4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark on their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
American King James Version×) known as the Millennium.
Isaiah describes this future period as a time of peace when God’s law will go forth to all nations from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:2-4 Isaiah 2:2-4 2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.
3 And many people shall go and say, Come you, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
American King James Version×). The fierce nature of some animals will change (Isaiah 11:6 Isaiah 11:6The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatted calf together; and a little child shall lead them.
American King James Version×; Isaiah 65:25 Isaiah 65:25The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, said the LORD.
American King James Version×), the earth will become highly productive (Isaiah 35:1 Isaiah 35:1The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.
American King James Version×), and, most important, “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9 Isaiah 11:9They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
American King James Version×). With Satan’s evil influence removed, all of humanity will at last learn God’s ways.
This perfect environment will be designed to offer all people the opportunity to repent of their sins and come to God the Father through Jesus Christ. The Bible shows that Jesus attended this important festival (John 7:2-14 John 7:2-14 2 Now the Jew’s feast of tabernacles was at hand.
3 His brothers therefore said to him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that your disciples also may see the works that you do.
4 For there is no man that does any thing in secret, and he himself seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.
5 For neither did his brothers believe in him.
6 Then Jesus said to them, My time is not yet come: but your time is always ready.
7 The world cannot hate you; but me it hates, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.
8 Go you up to this feast: I go not up yet to this feast: for my time is not yet full come.
9 When he had said these words to them, he stayed still in Galilee.
10 But when his brothers were gone up, then went he also up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.
11 Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he?
12 And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, No; but he deceives the people.
13 However, no man spoke openly of him for fear of the Jews.
14 Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught.
American King James Version×).
The Eighth Day
The final step in God’s plan of salvation for all mankind is represented in a feast day at the conclusion of the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:39 Leviticus 23:39Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep a feast to the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath.
American King James Version×). Referred to in Scripture simply as “the eighth day” and now sometimes as the Last Great Day, this festival pictures the great judgment of humankind described in Revelation 20:11-13 Revelation 20:11-13 11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
American King James Version×. During this time all people who have died not knowing God’s plan for them will be resurrected to life to be given an opportunity to respond to God’s call. Thus it represents the completion of the spiritual harvest of mankind.
Our Creator wants “all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4 1 Timothy 2:4Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
American King James Version×) and is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 2 Peter 3:9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
American King James Version×). Through His wonderful plan everyone will have an opportunity to know His truth, repent and receive salvation.
The Church of the first century followed Jesus’ example of observing these days. Peter and John urged the brethren to walk in Jesus’ steps (1 Peter 2:21 1 Peter 2:21For even hereunto were you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps:
American King James Version×), to “walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6 1 John 2:6He that said he stays in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
American King James Version×). They followed Christ’s command to teach converts to “observe all things that I [Jesus] have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20 Matthew 28:19-20 19 Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you: and, see, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen.
American King James Version×).
Obedience or idolatry?
Observances rooted in paganism break the first two of the Ten Commandments. Is God pleased when people claim to worship Him by adopting celebrations of pagan gods and goddesses in man-made holidays while they ignore His commanded days and ways of worship?
Celebrating the birthday of the sun god or adopting fertility rites to other gods and goddesses violates God’s clear instruction: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3 Exodus 20:3You shall have no other gods before me.
American King James Version×).
Inventing religious feasts to replace those given by God contradicts His teaching: “You shall not make for yourself an idol … You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God …” (Exodus 20:4-5 Exodus 20:4-5 4 You shall not make to you any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
5 You shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
American King James Version×, New International Version). Substituting pagan customs and practices for what God has commanded—regardless of how well intentioned it might be— is idolatry.
Why would anyone choose to reject God’s instructions and His marvelous feast days, especially since He gave them to us to reveal our ultimate destiny? To discover more about these magnificent festivals and how to observe them, be sure to request your free copy of our booklet God’s Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind . You will find further proof that Jesus and the apostles observed these days and will learn much more about their significance in helping us understand God’s master plan for all of humanity.
Following the instruction and example of Jesus Christ, the apostles and the early New Testament Church, members of the United Church of God continue to observe these annual days. We welcome all who wish to join us in worshipping our Creator on these great festivals of hope. We invite you to contact our nearest office to locate a congregation near you.