What Do the Holy Days Mean for Christians Today?

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What Do the Holy Days Mean for Christians Today?

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New Testament Church. Old Testament Holy Days. Incompatible? Absolutely not!

Why? How can festivals observed by ancient Israel be valuable to Christians today?

Simple! They reveal God's master plan of salvation.

The Holy Days unveil for us the crucial keys to salvation. They give us a step-by-step explanation of how God plans to reconcile all human beings to Himself. They reveal the big picture-the spiritual harvest of the whole world. They give vivid meaning to the gospel of the kingdom of God. Their value to the Church of the living God is incalculable!

How can we be sure that the Holy Days reveal God's plan of salvation for all mankind? After all, millions don't understand, or they simply disagree. How can we be certain that we are right? The key is in Paul's letter to the Colossians. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, speaks about these Holy Days to a Christian church. What he says-and does not say-carries immense weight. Let's examine what Paul says and understand what he means.

He says, "So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ" (Colossians 2:16-17 Colossians 2:16-17 [16] Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: [17] Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
American King James Version×
).

This passage, probably more than any other in the Bible, is interpreted by those who reject God's festivals as confirmation that the Holy Days are unnecessary observances for Christians. Their reasoning is not only false; it is based on poor scholarship. Paul, while countering a local heresy, pinpoints the real value of these Holy Days to Christians. They foreshadow "things to come," he says. They focus our attention on the future. They connect the plan of God directly to the commission Christ gave His Church.

Now let's examine what Paul really says about Sabbaths, new moons and Holy Days.

Background to Colossians

First, we need some essential background to Paul's letter to the Colossians. Paul was combating heresy. False teachers had infiltrated the church there. These deceivers heavily influenced the Colossians. They introduced their own religious philosophy-a mixture of both Jewish and gentile concepts. Paul warned, "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men . . ." (Colossians 2:8 Colossians 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
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).

Human traditions-the inventions of the human mind-were the foundation of the Colossian heresy. This human reasoning and teaching are what Paul opposed, not revealed instruction from God's Word. Earlier, Jesus had soundly condemned the Pharisees for the same thing. They had elevated their own traditions to greater importance than God's commandments (Mark 7:8-9 Mark 7:8-9 [8] For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things you do. [9] And he said to them, Full well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your own tradition.
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, Mark 7:13 Mark 7:13Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which you have delivered: and many such like things do you.
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).

Tradition played an extremely important role in the life of the Jews at that time. The Greeks had a long history of astrological traditions that related planets and stars to deities. Human tradition was beginning to subvert the Church of God in Colosse.

Paul fought to keep the Colossians focused on Christ as the Head of the Church. These false teachers sought to persuade them to worship angels (Colossians 2:18 Colossians 2:18 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
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) to the neglect of their own bodies (Colossians 2:23 Colossians 2:23 Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh.
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). None of these distorted ideas came from the Old Testament Scriptures.

Paul characterized this Colossian heresy as "empty deceit" and "the basic principles of the world" (Colossians 2:8 Colossians 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
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). It was more than just another harmless local tradition. It was an intolerable deception designed to change the very focus of their worship. They were being persuaded to ignore plain biblical instruction in favor of "the tradition[s] of men" (verse 8). Some elements of that deceptive philosophy survive in Christianity to this day.

Man-made regulations

How does Paul characterize these basic principles of the world? "Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations [?] ..." What regulations? "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle, ... according to the commandments and doctrines of men" (Colossians 2:20-22 Colossians 2:20-22 [20] Why if you be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are you subject to ordinances, [21] (Touch not; taste not; handle not; [22] Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?
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). These man-made regulations concerned things "which perish with the using" (verse 22). Paul is discussing physical things-perishable items!

Why is this important?

The Colossian deceivers were among the forerunners of gnosticism, a major religious movement that flourished in the second century. Gnosticism gets its name from the Greek word gnosis, meaning "knowledge." Gnostics believed that higher, secret knowledge available only to its adherents was necessary for salvation.

The gnostic teachers influencing the Colossians blended both traditional and nontraditional Jewish beliefs with pagan superstitions and integrated their astrological beliefs with the worship of angelic beings. In no way did this mixture of beliefs represent the mainstream Judaism of that day. Theirs was an aberrant sectarian philosophy nowhere taught in Old Testament Scripture.

What were their main beliefs?

They believed that salvation could be achieved by constant contemplation of "spiritual" things, to the neglect of the physical body. They believed in various orders of angels and that humans should interact directly with angels. They regarded physical things, including the human body, as decadent and unworthy of their time and concern.

Paul explicitly states that the judgmental attitudes he was countering "all concern things which perish with the using [obviously referring to physical things]-according to the commandments and doctrines of men" (Colossians 2:22 Colossians 2:22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?
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). How clear! Paul plainly says that he is countering the commandments and doctrines of men, not the commandments of God.

Why can't people believe him?

The Colossian heretics created their own prohibitive regulations-"do not touch, do not taste, do not handle" (Colossians 2:21 Colossians 2:21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not;
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)-against the enjoyment of physical things. They were especially critical of the eating and drinking aspects of the Holy Day festivals observed by the Colossian members. That was not compatible with their idea of being "spiritual."

Their objections covered all feasting aspects of the Holy Days, but apparently not the observance of Holy Days as religious festivals. They regarded the observance of a Holy Day as spiritual, but feasting-eating and drinking for enjoyment-was beneath them.

Now we can understand what Paul really says to the Colossians. He is discussing judging-the critical objections of some narrow-minded heretics to the enjoyment of physical things. He commands the Colossians not to be influenced by the false teachers' objections to eating, drinking and rejoicing on Sabbaths, Holy Days and new moons.

Criticized for feasting

"So let no one judge you in food or in drink [literally "in eating and in drinking" in the original], or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ" (Colossians 2:16-17 Colossians 2:16-17 [16] Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: [17] Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
American King James Version×
). The word regarding is translated from the Greek noun meros, meaning a "part" or "portion" of something. A more accurate rendering would be: "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in any part of a Holy Day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days ..."

Paul is just being consistent. Eating or drinking is a part of Sabbath and Holy Day observance. Both were a part of God's instructions for rejoicing in observing those days (Leviticus 23:1-44 Leviticus 23:1-44 [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. [4] These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which you shall proclaim in their seasons. [5] In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD's passover. [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. [9] And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, [10] Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, When you be come into the land which I give to you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then you shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest: [11] And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. [12] And you shall offer that day when you wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering to the LORD. [13] And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire to the LORD for a sweet smell: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin. [14] And you shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that you have brought an offering to your God: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. [15] And you shall count to you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: [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. [22] And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not make clean riddance of the corners of your field when you reap, neither shall you gather any gleaning of your harvest: you shall leave them to the poor, and to the stranger: I am the LORD your God. [23] And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, [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. [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. [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. [40] And you shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. [41] And you shall keep it a feast to the LORD seven days in the year. It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. [42] You shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths: [43] That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. [44] And Moses declared to the children of Israel the feasts of the LORD.
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, Deuteronomy 14:22-26 Deuteronomy 14:22-26 [22] You shall truly tithe all the increase of your seed, that the field brings forth year by year. [23] And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of your corn, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herds and of your flocks; that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. [24] And if the way be too long for you, so that you are not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from you, which the LORD your God shall choose to set his name there, when the LORD your God has blessed you: [25] Then shall you turn it into money, and bind up the money in your hand, and shall go to the place which the LORD your God shall choose: [26] And you shall bestow that money for whatever your soul lusts after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatever your soul desires: and you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you, and your household,
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).

In writing to the Colossians, Paul uses the word meros ("part") to cover any other part or aspect of these days that the heretics might condemn or criticize. Nothing in this passage even suggests that the Sabbaths or Holy Days were abolished. Succumbing to the judgmental influence of those early gnostic heretics is what Paul condemns, not the observance of Sabbaths and Holy Days.

Future fulfillment

Now back to the main purpose of the Holy Days for us today. Paul says they "are a shadow of things to come." The phrase to come is a present active participle in the Greek. It means "things coming," referring to the future, not the past. Any theologian who claims that Paul is referring to the Holy Days as a shadow of things in the past is not being honest with the Greek grammar. The Greek requires it to point to the future.

The Sabbath and the Holy Days foreshadow things to come-future events. There is no doubt about what Paul is saying. The Holy Days still represent future events in the plan of salvation.

God's Holy Days are also times for joy and celebration. He commands us to attend and rejoice with our entire family. "But you shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses . . . and there you shall go. There you shall take . . . your tithes, . . . your freewill offerings, . . . and there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the Lord your God has blessed you" (Deuteronomy 12:5-7 Deuteronomy 12:5-7 [5] But to the place which the LORD your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even to his habitation shall you seek, and thither you shall come: [6] And thither you shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and of your flocks: [7] And there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice in all that you put your hand to, you and your households, wherein the LORD your God has blessed you.
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).

God's festivals were designed to be a wonderful blessing! He desires that we thoroughly delight in them. He wants us to experience together the joy of being His children. No wonder Paul attacks the misguided philosophy of the Colossian heretics with such vigor. They sabotaged the very spirit of God's festivals. Paul defended the Christians' right to feast on these feast days.

The Sabbath and Holy Days are also called memorials. Their purpose is to make us aware of God's plan, both past and future. The Sabbath is a memorial of creation (Exodus 20:11 Exodus 20:11For 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.
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). It also is a type of the rest that is to come (Hebrews 4:4-11 Hebrews 4:4-11 [4] For he spoke in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. [5] And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. [6] Seeing therefore it remains that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: [7] Again, he limits a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. [8] For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. [9] There remains therefore a rest to the people of God. [10] For he that is entered into his rest, he also has ceased from his own works, as God did from his. [11] Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
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).

Some aspects of God's master plan have already been fulfilled. The Holy Days represent them as memorials. The Feast of Trumpets portrays what is still future, yet it also is called a memorial (Leviticus 23:23-24 Leviticus 23:23-24 [23] And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, [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.
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). Memorials make us remember all the plan of God. We keep them so we will never forget any major part of God's master plan of salvation.

Majority of mankind blinded

Why do so few understand God's Holy Days today? They have been taught to reject them.

Satan hates God's plan. He wants to destroy every vestige of that plan, eradicating all knowledge of it. He is still "the god of this age" (2 Corinthians 4:4 2 Corinthians 4:4In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
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). He "deceives the whole world" (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.
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), blinding the vast majority of mankind to the importance of God's ways, including the Holy Days.

No religion has maintained an accurate understanding of God's plan without the Holy Days. Some discern important details of that plan correctly. But, without an understanding of God's master plan as revealed by the Holy Days, they simply can't put all the pieces together. Confusion has been the result.

We should deeply appreciate the understanding these Holy Days give to us. And we should thank God that these days also picture the future, when all mankind will understand God's great master plan. Those who are now blinded are just as much a part of that plan of salvation as we are. Only the timing is different.

We must remember that people who are spiritually blinded are often very sincere, and we should never be judgmental toward them. Some have deep convictions and follow many right principles. They may not yet see the big picture or fully grasp the awesome plan of God, but the time is coming when they will.

We need to appreciate the magnitude of the plan of salvation pictured by God's Holy Days. Our individual calling is important, but God is working out a much bigger purpose than just our personal salvation.

Christ died for all mankind

"For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: `The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins'" (Romans 11:25-27 Romans 11:25-27 [25] For I would not, brothers, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. [26] And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: [27] For this is my covenant to them, when I shall take away their sins.
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).

However, God shows no favoritism (Romans 2:11 Romans 2:11For there is no respect of persons with God.
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). Christ died so all may be saved! All mankind must yet learn the truth and come to repentance. We continue to have an important part in that process. "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men . . . For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:1-4 1 Timothy 2:1-4 [1] I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; [2] For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. [3] For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; [4] Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
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).

Also, "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise . . . but is longsuffering toward us, 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.
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).

Spread to the entire world

The wonderful truths we are learning now will be spread to the entire world. "And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, on them there will be no rain. If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the Lord strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles" (Zechariah 14:16-19 Zechariah 14:16-19 [16] And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. [17] And it shall be, that whoever will not come up of all the families of the earth to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, even on them shall be no rain. [18] And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, with which the LORD will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. [19] This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.
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).

There are no shortcuts. All peoples must be brought to real repentance before they will be saved. God's Holy Days will continue revealing the plan of God to mankind until His plan is complete. These days will always play a major role in bringing the whole world to repentance.

The apostle Paul wrote, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world ... having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth ..." (Ephesians 1:3-4 Ephesians 1:3-4 [3] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: [4] According as he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
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, Ephesians 1:9-10 Ephesians 1:9-10 [9] Having made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he has purposed in himself: [10] That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
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).

What a wonderful plan! What a wonderful God! GN

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