United Church of God

Why Should Christians Keep the Biblical Festivals of Leviticus 23?

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Why Should Christians Keep The Biblical Festivals of Leviticus 23?

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Why Should Christians Keep the Biblical Festivals of Leviticus 23?

MP3 Audio (33.9 MB)
Chart (196.16 KB)

The holy days are a summary outline of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. They are filled with meaning and provide clarity... and yet most know nothing of them... and many who know the instructions found in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy... do not understand the profound message they contain.

The chart referred to in this message can be downloaded at this link - https://www.ucg.org/system/storage/serve/1371366/slide5_1.jpg


Why Should We Keep the Biblical Holy Days?

God’s Holy Days Are Full of Meaning, Instruction & Insight

God created human beings for an amazing/eternal purpose! Every man, woman, and child here has been made in God's own image... a physical being made of dust, clay, molecules.... yet with a spiritual component built into us.

That spirit within humans distinguishes us from all the other creatures on the planet... it takes humans to a different level of being and thinking.

That spirit God has placed within us is designed to interact with and work with the holy spirit of God to bring about a new creation... each completely unique... yet conforming to a righteous pattern. Humans are designed for spirit-born life... and all have the potential to be born into the family of God Himself.

God’s Process of Spiritual Creation Takes Time

On a personal level: the godly character of each individual being takes a lifetime to develop... some 70, some 80, sometimes even 90 years!

On a macro level:the end-to-end process God has mapped out for bringing a vast multitude of spirit born children to the fullness of glory spans... centuries, and millenia.

Year after year, we walk together through the stages of that carefully worked out plan. We walk through them by the careful and thoughtful observance of 7 festivals and 7 holy days God gave to humanity through His chosen people Israel.

Each of these festivals pictures a necessary, and distinct, step in the work God is doing. They are a road map for the process of our own spiritual creation... and for God's large scale plan of filling the universe with life. They cover past, present, and future... They address all the known universe... They are for every man, woman, and child who has ever drawn the breath of life.

The holy days provide at least three primary functions: 1) they give structure to spiritual instruction and understanding, showing us where we are in God’s plan 2) they provide a schedule and lesson plan 3) they provide a test of obedience and application.

The holy days are a summary outline of the Gospel  of the Kingdom of God. They are filled with meaning and provide clarity... and yet most know nothing of them... and many who know the instructions found in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy... do not understand the profound message they contain.

Israel Did Not Understand

The people of Israel never understood how the holy days pictured God's plan of salvation and spiritual birth... their lack of understanding was not because they were stupid... but because they did not have God's holy spirit within them… and they did not accept the messengers God sent them.

In history and in time, God used Israel to establish the physical routine of keeping these days... and it is through Israel that the holy days have been recorded and preserved throughout history Romans 3:2-4.

Leviticus 23:1-2 These are not "festivals of the Jews"... God says, "these are MY APPOINTED TIMES". The job of Israel and the Jews was to proclaim them!

We owe Israel a debt of gratitude for the role Israel has played in preserving these days. But, we do not look to them for understanding of what these appointed holy days of God mean. Israel  foolishly rejected the Messiah king sent to them [Jesus].... without an understanding and appreciation of Christ no one can understand the spiritual lesson of the holy days.

The holy days and festivals are about what Jesus Christ has done, what He is doing right now, and what He will yet do in the future.

The Holy Days are for The Church of God

Israel's hard and painful work of establishing and preserving these days throughout time was for the benefit of the Church of God [Romans 11:18 “you do not support the root, the root supports you”]. Since the coming of Christ God’s festivals are filled with new meaning. We understand this through:

  1. the direct instruction of Jesus Himself - some of this instruction is clear direct statements with zero ambiguity... some are by giving us pointers back to OT prophecies and symbols
    1. Example: Mark 14:22-25 - bread and wine
  2. the ongoing instruction of the ministry - some of the understanding we have comes from instruction given to disciples by Jesus which were not recorded in scripture, but which formed the basis for more detailed instruction
    1. Example: John 6 “ I am the bread of life come down from heaven … whoever eats of this bread has life everlasting
  3. the spiritual discernment granted by the holy spirit - some of our understanding comes from applying biblical based typology, symbolism, and key words. We use these  to take elements of salvation which are well known and thoroughly explained and tie them back to the holy days
    1. Example: 1 Corinthians 5:1-8 [read verse 7 only] Paul compares sin in the congregation to the leavening we must get rid of during the festival
    2. Example: 1 Thessalonians 4:16 the symbol of the trumpet points us back to the festival

Leviticus 23:3 The Weekly Sabbath

The first of God's appointed times is the weekly Sabbath. It is unique in that it is based on a cycle of counting rather than on movements of the sun and moon. This cycle of counting 7 days... then another 7 days was established at creation and carried forward to the present.

The weekly Sabbath is a weekly remembrance that God is our creator [Exodus 20:11]... it is a weekly reminder that it is God who delivers us from oppression and bondage [Deuteronomy 5:15].

Those are obvious from a reading of the OT commandments. But in the NT we learn that the weekly Sabbath is also a weekly reminder of the Millennial rule of Christ... when we achieve rest and relief from poverty, suffering, and deception Hebrews 4:8-10.

Leviticus 23:4 The Yearly Festivals and Holy Days

Now we come to the appointed times that occur only once per year. These are not based on a cycle of counting... rather they are based on the giant time clock visible in the sky. The movement of the Sun and moon [Genesis 1:14].

Leviticus 23: 5 The Passover

The first thing that must happen in God's plan for redemption... sanctification... and regeneration is: AN INTERVENTION. To save human beings from death God must proactively take action... this is an example of His grace.

With the first Passover we have the unblemished lamb who's blood is shed so that death might pass-over the people of Israel. In the NC we have the unblemished, sinless Jesus. His blood is shed so that we might be redeemed from the just penalty of our own sin 1 Peter 1:18.

Jesus did not abolish the Passover... He filled it with new meaning... He changed the symbols to the bread and wine. He told us to keep observing the Passover but in a new way... as a memorial of what He had done for us. He said "keep doing the Passover in this way until I return and we are able to keep it together in the kingdom of God [Matthew 26:29]

On a personal level: the Passover is a time for us to remember our personal acceptance of Jesus Christ which we demonstrated through repentance, and baptism. On big picture level: we remember a distinct moment in world history when Jesus died in the flesh to make salvation possible for everyone.

Leviticus 23:6-8 Unleavened Bread

The plan of God does not end with the death of Jesus... that is where it begins! The Days of Unleavened Bread picture the part we play the development and nurturing of the spiritual creation leading to glory.

  • the hard work of overcoming sin... putting it out of our lives. This is pictured by removing leaven from our homes... and avoiding eating leavened products as we go about or days.
  • the hard work of putting on the character of the new spiritual creation... the new man .. putting righteousness into our lives. This is pictured by the eating the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

The festival period lasts 7 days ... picturing overcoming as a life ling process. The week begins with a holy convocation and ends with another commanded assembly.

The first holy day begins in the evening and starts with a "night to be much observed". Its is a night of watching/vigil to remember how God watched over Israel as He lead them out of Egypt by night after the sun had set on the 15th day of Aviv/Nissan [Exodus]. Like Israel we are told we must begin our journey of coming out of sin [Hebrews 11:24-26, Revelation 18:4].

The last day of the 7 day festival is also a high day... an annual Sabbath. It was at this time that the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea... and the sea washed back covering and killing the Egyptian army that pursued them.

This pictures our exodus from sin... a time when Satan no longer holds us as slaves to sin.

Leviticus 23:9-14 Wave Sheaf Offering

The wave sheaf was an aspect of the festival which was only put in place after Israel came into the promised land. It was a picture of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and His appearance before the Father as the first of the first fruits.

The wave sheaf ceremony is not part of the new covenant observance of the days of unleavened bread. Why? Christ the true sheaf from the first harvest [barley] has already risen from the dead as the first of the first fruits… also, there is no high priest to administer the ceremony.

Leviticus 23: 15-16, 21 Pentecost

We must receive the help of God's holy spirit to successfully overcome our personal sin and extract our self from this world and its ways John 14:10 it was not by His own power but rather the presence of the holy spirit in Him. John 14:14-16 That same power is at work in you today! Other key points:

  1. As mentioned earlier, it is through the holy spirit that we are begotten of God and may become the spirit-born children of God.
  2. Pentecost is also the birth of the Church of God through which God's truth is proclaimed as a witness until the return of Christ

Leviticus 23:23 Trumpets

Personal: We cannot be completely brought into God's everlasting family unless we are resurrected and given spirit bodies. Big Picture: Christ must return for there to ever be righteous rule among humanity.

Leviticus 23:27,32 Atonement

Satan must be removed so that humanity can live at peace.

Leviticus 23:34-35 Feast of Tabernacles

Personal: we shall join Christ and rule with Him in the KOG  Big Picture: Humanity will enjoy the blessings, benefits, and peace of righteous rule for 1,000 years. It will serve as a living demonstration of how God's way works... which leads to the last Great Day.

Leviticus 23:36-39 Last Great Day

This day answers the question... What about all those who have lived and died never knowing about Christ... or having lived all their lives deceived about God's great plan. This is the day when "the rest of the dead rise up"... This is the day when understanding of God's great plan will be completely understood by all people.


Rejoice, because that understanding of God's plan and purpose for bringing many children to everlasting glory has been made known to you. Today you have heard once again a brief overview... we will get into the details more as this year's cycle of 7 festivals, and 7 holy days come once again.