Remember the Festivals?

Throughout church history there have always been controversies that arise and fall, frequently cyclically. It seems that once an idea has been studied and rejected by one generation another generation “which knew not Joseph” arises to teach the very same ideas that had been carefully analyzed, studied and passed by of yesteryear. Some even come to the conclusion that it is “new light” although there is nothing new or enlightening about it. It is no fault of the proponents; it is new to them even if it is not new to history. (How true are Solomon’s words “there is no new thing under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) One of these seemingly cyclical controversies is the idea that we must “remember the festivals.” There is no doubt that God did institute the festivals and for over a thousand years of Biblical history, God’s people were called upon to keep them. There were tremendous changes that took place in true worship and in the world as a whole as a result of Jesus’ coming and death, did these festivals change, too? If God is still asking us to keep these festivals, then surely we do not want to be remiss, but nor do we want to revert to something that God has put aside. Surely if God is calling us to keep these festivals, then there should be clear indication that this is the case and on the converse if God has altered these festivals there should be clear evidence for that, as well. What does the Bible say? To remember or not to remember?

To Keep the Festivals, Circumcision is Required

The first festival in importance to the Jewish mind and the first festival that was instituted is clearly the Passover and its accompanying Festival of Unleavened Bread. It was one of the three festivals that attendance was required by all adult male Israelites. (Deuteronomy 16:16; Exodus 23:14-17) It was considered their “great national festival” (Review and Herald November 7, 1899). The Jews reckoned time based on the Passover and thus the entire “Jewish year” (Patriarchs and Prophets, page 537) was tied to the observance of the Passover. Before the Babylonian captivity when the rabbinical system of a 19 year cycle was instituted regulating the additional 13th month, the 13th month was determined by observation and calculating if the barley harvest would be ripe enough to present an offering of firstfruits for the celebration of the festival of unleavened bread as specified by Moses. (This Karaite reckoning is the only reckoning that places the Passover falling on a Friday in the year AD 31 and it is this reckoning that was used by Millerites to set the date for October 22, 1844.) Thus originally the Passover dictated the observation of all of the other festivals and the entirety of the Jewish year. (Exodus 12:2) Still today the Passover is probably the most highly regarded of the festivals and the most observed.

The greatest detail of any of the festivals is given regarding the Passover and its accompanying festival of unleavened bread, but this is not unusual. Very frequently in the Bible, the first time a subject is brought to view it has great importance and the details given in regard to it apply later. This is so much so that some Bible students refer to this as one of the rules for Biblical interpretation: “rule of first mention.” Thus many of the details regarding the Passover apply to the other festivals that accompany it. What were some of these specifications in regard to the Passover? The primary word applying to the festivals is applied: chag. (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible #2282 a festival, or a victim therefor) Circumcision was required: “But every man’s servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof…. And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.” Exodus 12:44, 48.

From when the children of Israel rebelled at the borders of the Promised Land until thirty-nine years later when they crossed the Jordan River both circumcision and the Passover were suspended together. “And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins. And this is the cause why Joshua did circumcise: All the people that came out of Egypt, that were males, even all the men of war, died in the wilderness by the way, after they came out of Egypt. Now all the people that came out were circumcised: but all the people that were born in the wilderness by the way as they came forth out of Egypt, them they had not circumcised … And their children, whom he raised up in their stead, them Joshua circumcised: for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them by the way.” Joshua 5:3-5, 7. It was there, after an absence of thirty-nine years, that the Passover was kept once again, “And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month at even in the plains of Jericho.” Joshua 5:10.

The fact that the Passover, the greatest of all the festivals to the Hebrew mind, was clearly suspended is strong evidence that there is nothing moral about the festivals. Moral requirements are never suspended. Ceremonial and national injunctions are suspended at times (e.g. in Gideon’s time, Judges 6:25-28), but moral commands are never temporarily put aside. There is never a time in which it is acceptable to commit adultery, murder, steal, lie, break the Sabbath, worship idols, etc. God never sets aside the Ten Commandments and this is the moral Law. The fact that the Passover (and most likely the other feasts, too, with the possible exception of the Blowing of Trumpets and Day of Atonement) were not observed for many years strongly supports that they were ceremonial, typical, shadows and not eternal.

It is also undeniable that you could not keep the Passover if you were not circumcised. (Exodus 12:44, 48) The Passover was clearly associated with shadowy types that were to pass away. You cannot read the New Testament without coming to the conclusion that circumcision is no longer of religious importance. Neither can you read Exodus 12 without coming to the conclusion that if the Passover is to be kept, then one must be circumcised. Thus from the very beginning of the festivals, you come to a contradiction. If the festivals must be kept, one must be circumcised too, but the New Testament clearly states that circumcision is unnecessary. The clear correlation between these two strongly indicates that you must either dispense with the New Testament or dispense with the festivals, there is no other logical alternative. “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” Romans 2:28, 29. “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.” 1 Corinthians 7:19. “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” Galatians 5:6. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” Galatians 6:15.

To Keep the Festivals, Typical Rites are Required

It is true that there were additional sacrifices that were offered on the Sabbath day in addition to the daily sacrifices. (Numbers 28:9, 10) These sacrifices were not part and parcel with the Sabbath, though. The Sabbath was discussed many times in detail before the Sabbath sacrifices were ever mentioned. (Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 16; 20:8-11, etc.) It is undeniable that the Sabbath is clearly found before sin and thus before a need for the sacrifices. It is also undeniable that the Sabbath is clearly a part of the Ten Commandments, written with the finger of God which includes zero references to sacrificing. None of this can be said about the annual festivals.

The very first mention of any of the festivals in any detail gives instructions regarding a sacrifice. The primary aspect and feature of the Passover was the paschal Lamb. Before anything else is discussed about the Passover, the sacrifice is dealt with in detail. (Exodus 12:1-7) “Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven; neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the passover be left unto the morning.” Exodus 34:25. The Passover revolved around eating the lamb and then not eating leavened bread. The festivals were not just days to worship the Lord as the Sabbath is. The festivals were defined by the rites and ceremonies performed during them. What made the Passover the Passover was the paschal lamb. What distinguished the festival of unleavened bread was the absence of leaven and the wave sheaf offerings. What made the festival of weeks was the firstfruits and the sacrifices associated with it. What defined the festival of trumpets was the trumpets blast. The importance of the Day of Atonement was the typical rites and services delineated in Leviticus 16. Without the booths and sacrifices the festival of booths would have been nothing. If you strip the sacrifices and typical rites from the festivals you are left with an empty husk. There is no Biblical indication of what the children of Israel would have done without the typical rites including sacrifices. They were not just appointed times of worship; they were highly typical services.

To compare the passing mention of Sabbath sacrifices to the multitudinous record of festival sacrifices and rites is contrary to the heavy weight of evidence in the Scriptures. The Bible is laden with texts regarding Sabbath observance; it only gives scant references to any special sacrifices on the Sabbath. (Numbers 28:9, 10; 1 Chronicles 23:31; Ezekiel 46:4) The Bible, on the other hand, has scant references in regard to any special festival observance without sacrifices and typical rites. The festivals could not be separated from the typical service; this is an extra-Biblical rabbinical invention since the destruction of the temple in an effort to preserve the Jewish identity. Seeking to observe the festivals without participating in the typical service is borrowing from the rejecters of the Messiah; keeping the Sabbath is uniting with the Creator of the Universe. The Sabbath and the festivals are on such different levels that comparison is impossible.

The Time of the Festivals was Not Sacred

In reading about the institution of the Passover at the time of the exodus, the idea is distinctly conveyed that the day was unknown before that time. “And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.” “And Moses said unto the people, Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out from this place: there shall no leavened bread be eaten.” “But at the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place his name in, there thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even, at the going down of the sun, at the season that thou camest forth out of Egypt.” Exodus12:14; 13:3; Deuteronomy 16:6. It also appears that the Jewish year and reckoning of time did not come into existence until the events of the exodus. (1500 BC +/-) “This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.” Exodus 12:2. A simple reading of these verses clearly shows us that the Passover and the Jewish year were unknown until the exodus. That means that for approximately 2500 years, the Passover was unknown. It would not make much sense to be observing a day that was commemorating the deliverance from Egypt before the deliverance occurred. We have no records of July 4th celebrations before 1776, it would have been meaningless, and so with the Passover. From Adam to Enoch to Noah to Abraham to Jacob, the patriarchs never kept the Passover because it did not exist. It is also interesting to note that the Jewish year is tied to the Passover. If you do not know when the Passover is, you do not know when the Jewish year begins. So for around 2500 years the Jewish year was unknown. If the Passover and Jewish year were unknown by extension the other festivals would likewise have been unobserved because in order to calculate the other festivals the Passover was required. Thus for the first couple thousand years of this earth’s history, the festivals were unknown, despite the fact that mo-ed is used five times before the Passover account. (We will look at the Hebrew words for the festivals later.)

Something else of interest is that the significance of the festivals was not the set times for the festivals, but the typical significance and the spiritual blessings associated with them. The actual times of the festivals were frequently violated. The first recorded time that the Passover was kept (and the only time in the forty years of wilderness wandering), an exception is made in reference to the time. “Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If any man of you or of your posterity shall be unclean by reason of a dead body, or be in a journey afar off, yet he shall keep the passover unto the LORD. The fourteenth day of the second month at even they shall keep it, and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.” Numbers 9:10-11. There apparently was nothing sacred about the set time of the Passover for permission was granted for those with extenuating circumstances to keep the festival on the second month. This happened more than once in the history of Israel. In the great reformation of Hezekiah, they were not ready to keep the Passover on the first month as it should have been and so they kept it on the second month as God had directed through Moses. During this Passover, they actually went on and kept an additional seven days, too. The time of the festivals was not necessarily sacred; it was the spiritual lessons and experience which was conveyed that was of significance.

The Festivals were Distinctly Jewish

The festivals began with the commemoration of the birth of the Jewish nation. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had traveled through Canaan for many years, but it was not until the deliverance of Israel from Egypt that it came into being as a nation. The Passover then was the celebration of the coming into existence of Israel as a nation. The Passover was then distinctly Jewish, but the other festivals were highly related to Israel, too. The Passover corresponded to the beginning of the barley harvest. The festival of weeks was related to the conclusion of the barley harvest and the beginning of the wheat harvest. The festival of tabernacles was celebrated at the conclusion of the harvests. The festivals were designed for the Jewish people in the land of Palestine. Take them out of the context of Palestine and they become significant only in their typical value. God designed the Jews to keep the feasts in the land of Israel. They were for the Jews in their land.

Not only were the festivals for the Jews in their land, but they were required to celebrate them at the tabernacle itself. Repeatedly God referred to the observance of the festivals “at the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place his name in.” Deuteronomy 16:6. “Thou shalt therefore sacrifice the passover unto the LORD thy God, of the flock and the herd, in the place which the LORD shall choose to place his name there … Thou mayest not sacrifice the passover within any of thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee: But at the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place his name in, there thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even, at the going down of the sun, at the season that thou camest forth out of Egypt. And thou shalt roast and eat it in the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: and thou shalt turn in the morning, and go unto thy tents … And thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you, in the place which the LORD thy God hath chosen to place his name there … Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD shall choose: because the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice. Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty:” Deuteronomy 16:2, 5-7, 11, 15, 16. God clearly intended for each of the festivals to be kept at the sanctuary itself. It specifically mentions that you are not to sacrifice the Passover in any of your gates; it must be at the temple. If we were to suppose that we could observe the festivals today, it most certainly could not be at our house, it would have to be at the tabernacle in Israel, which obviously does not exist. Did God remove it for a reason?

When the Jews were in Babylonian captivity, we have no indication that they were still keeping the festivals. The Bible states that when they returned to their land and rebuilt the altar, then they restored the festivals, too. “And they set the altar upon his bases; for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries: and they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the LORD, even burnt offerings morning and evening. They kept also the feast of tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number, according to the custom, as the duty of every day required; And afterward offered the continual burnt offering, both of the new moons, and of all the set feasts of the LORD that were consecrated, and of every one that willingly offered a freewill offering unto the LORD.” Ezra 3:3-5. It was only when they returned to their land that and the altar was rebuilt that they began keeping the festivals again. Why? The festivals were for the Jewish people in their own land. When they rebelled against God and were carried into captivity, the festivals were temporarily removed, too.

When we look at the Ten Commandments, we never find them being called the “Jew’s Commandments.” The Ten Commandments transcend Judaism. Never in inspiration do we find the term the “Jewish Sabbath.” While many are claiming this today, this is not the terminology of the inspired record. The Sabbath, as a part of the Ten Commandments, is not a gift for one nationality; it is God’s gift to mankind. “The Sabbath was made for man.” Mark 2:27. This cannot be said for the festivals; they are Jewish. The Ten Commandments rise above any race, ethnicity, nationality or sect. The gospel exceedingly surpasses all such barriers. The festivals do not. They were important. They deserve our study, but not our observance.

The Festivals are not Moral

From all that we have looked at, the clear conclusion is that the festivals have nothing to do with morality. The festivals deserve no sacred place within the foundation of God’s eternal government—His Law. Let us recapitulate. Circumcision was required; circumcision is amoral. The festivals were designed for the land of Palestine; location is amoral. The festivals are inseparably tied to typical rites; types are amoral. The festivals were required to be kept at the tabernacle; the tabernacle is amoral. The specific times of the festivals could be changed; the specified times of the festivals is amoral. The festivals were Jewish; nationality is amoral. The festivals could be suspended; the festivals themselves are amoral.

Moral requirements (the Ten Commandments) are not based upon location or nationality; morality is required wherever you are and whatever your ethnicity. No moral requirements are ever changed or altered. Circumcision was changed; the times of the festivals were changed; the festivals themselves could be suspended. Morality cannot be changed or altered. The only consistent conclusion is that the festivals are in no way connected with the morality and its definition, the moral law of the Ten Commandments. To attempt to annex the festivals to the moral law is devious at best and more likely blasphemous. “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” Proverbs 30:5, 6. “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” Deuteronomy 4:2.

Mo-ed and Chag

When discussing the festivals, undoubtedly the subject of the original Hebrew word will come up. It is stated the Hebrew word for the festivals is mo-ed (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible #4150) and that this Hebrew word is used in the creation account in Genesis 1:14 stating, “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons (mo-ed), and for days, and years.” Genesis 1:14. This puts mo-ed (interpreted as the festivals) in creation before sin and thus it is not a part of the ceremonial law of types, but part of the moral code. This deserves close study. If the festivals are a part of creation, then that would put them in the category of morality, but we have already seen that the festivals are totally distinct from the moral code. This would also put the festivals 2500 years earlier than their foundation at the exodus. What does this mean and can it be reconciled?

It is true that mo-ed is one of the words that can refer to the Hebrew festivals, but it is not the most common Hebrew word for the festivals. The most common word is “chag” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible #2282). Of the sixty-five times that chag is used in the Bible, fifty-six times it unquestionably refers to the Hebrew festivals. The remaining times it refers to sacrifices at festivals, non-Biblical festivals or solemn days. The simple definition found in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible is “a festival or victim therefor.” The first time that a known Biblical festival is mentioned, it is the chag. Moses told Pharaoh that they must hold a chag to the Lord. (Exodus 10:9) When the Passover is introduced as an annual festival, Moses says, “And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast (chaq) to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast (chaq) by an ordinance for ever.” Exodus 12:14. When you study both words, almost invariably when a singular feast is being referred to it is chag that is used.

Mo-ed on the other hand is much more complicated. The Strong’s definition for mo-ed is “appointment, time, festival, year, assembly, congregation, place of meeting, signal.” Clearly mo-ed is a much broader word and does not almost exclusively apply to the annual festivals as chag does. When chag is used it nearly always applies to one of the festivals; when mo-ed is used, only occasionally does it apply to one of the festivals. The most frequent meaning of mo-ed is in reference to the “tabernacle (or tent) of congregation (mo-ed).” Mo-ed is used with this application approximately 147 times out of over 200 times that mo-ed is used in the entire Bible. Around two-thirds of the usages in the Bible are with this meaning. Probably the most accurate meaning of this construction would be “tabernacle of appointment.” It is at the tabernacle that God appoints to meet His people. Every morning and evening offering was an appointment with the God of heaven. Every Sabbath was a special appointment with the God of heaven. Then there were special monthly and yearly (the festival) appointments, as well. The general meaning in nearly all the usages of mo-ed is “appointment” or “appointed time.” Mo-ed is the various places and times of appointment. When mo-ed does refer to the annual festivals (around thirty times, or about one-seventh of the time the word is used) it is almost always used in reference to all of the festivals and the context is that it is God’s appointed annual times, but the context must always be read to determine if it is just an “appointed time” or if it is one of the festivals.

The first time that mo-ed clearly refers to the festivals is in Leviticus 23. “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts (mo-ed) of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts (mo-ed). Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings. These are the feasts (mo-ed) of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons.” Leviticus 23:2-4. Some have stipulated from this passage that the Sabbath is one of the mo-ed or “appointed times” of the Lord. While there would be no problem linguistically with saying that the Sabbath is one of God’s “appointed times” because God did clearly appoint the time of the Sabbath, the context of this passage and many other Biblical passages weigh strongly against this suggestion. While Moses is about to recapitulate the festivals (he has already given them without using mo-ed two previous times: Exodus 23:14-17; 34:18, 22, 23), he reminds them of the major importance of the weekly Sabbath, then before going on to the festivals, he repeats that these are the festivals, virtually excluding the Sabbath from them. Then the rest of the Bible makes it crystal clear that the Sabbath is not just an “appointed time.” “And to offer all burnt sacrifices unto the LORD in the sabbaths, in the new moons, and on the set feasts (mo-ed), by number, according to the order commanded unto them, continually before the LORD:” “Behold, I build an house to the name of the LORD my God, to dedicate it to him, and to burn before him sweet incense, and for the continual shewbread, and for the burnt offerings morning and evening, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts (mo-ed) of the LORD our God. This is an ordinance for ever to Israel.” “He appointed also the king’s portion of his substance for the burnt offerings, to wit, for the morning and evening burnt offerings, and the burnt offerings for the sabbaths, and for the new moons, and for the set feasts (mo-ed), as it is written in the law of the LORD.” “For the shewbread, and for the continual meat offering, and for the continual burnt offering, of the sabbaths, of the new moons, for the set feasts (mo-ed), and for the holy things, and for the sin offerings to make an atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God.” 1 Chronicles 23:31; 2 Chronicles 2:4; 31:3; Nehemiah 10:33. In every one of these passages, the Sabbath and the new moons are set apart as not part of the “appointed times.” The Sabbath is most definitely not one of the mo-ed; the Sabbath is of much greater importance than this.

It is also clear that mo-ed does not only refer to the festivals, even if we strike out the majority usage of “congregation.” “And the LORD appointed a set time (mo-ed), saying, To morrow the LORD shall do this thing in the land.” “And it came to pass, when the king of Ai saw it, that they hasted and rose up early, and the men of the city went out against Israel to battle, he and all his people, at a time appointed (mo-ed), before the plain; but he wist not that there were liers in ambush against him behind the city.” “Now there was an appointed sign (mo-ed) between the men of Israel and the liers in wait, that they should make a great flame with smoke rise up out of the city.” “And it came to pass in the morning, that Jonathan went out into the field at the time appointed (mo-ed) with David, and a little lad with him.” “Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times (mo-ed); and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the LORD.” “And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever that it shall be for a time (mo-ed), times (mo-ed), and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.” “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts (mo-ed); therefore love the truth and peace.” Exodus 9:5; Joshua 8:14; Judges 20:38; 1 Samuel 20:35; Jeremiah 8:7; Daniel 12:7; Zechariah 8:19. There are many other verses that could be stacked up, but this should be sufficient to make the point—every time that mo-ed is used it most certainly does not refer to the festivals. To take such a position is either inexcusable ignorance or outright deception. Tomorrow was the mo-ed during the Egyptian plagues (not the Passover). The mo-ed was specific signs and plans agreed upon in battle or a meeting time. The stork knows her mo-ed; does that mean that she keeps the festivals? The familiar prophetic formula of “time, times and a half” also uses mo-ed; does this have anything to do with the festivals? Then mo-ed refers to “appointed times” that are most definitely not the festivals that God ordained: the fourth month, the tenth month, etc. The “appointed times” here are obviously times appointed by man not by God. Mo-ed can and does refer to the festivals, but it is the minority usage and it is not even the primary word used for the festivals.

It has been suggested that Abraham kept the festivals because mo-ed is used in reference to Isaac’s birth. First of all, it would have been a violation of Abraham to observe the festivals because there was no tabernacle to observe them at, but that aside the evidence is extremely speculative that mo-ed refers to the festivals in reference to Abraham. The emphasis is always that God appointed a time for Sarah to bear Isaac. The same word is used in reference to the Shunammite woman bearing a son. “And he said, About this season (mo-ed), according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son. And she said, Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid. And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season (mo-ed) that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life.” 2 Kings 4:16, 17. The emphasis is that it happened “according to the time of life” as Elisha predicted. If it was during a festival, there was no recorded observance of it, but the significance was the miracle birth at the prophet’s word. Abraham’s situation is the same. “But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time (mo-ed) in the next year.” “Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed (mo-ed) I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.” “For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time (mo-ed) of which God had spoken to him.” Genesis 17:21; 18:14; 21:2. The only way to come to the conclusion that this has anything to do with any festival is to hold the erroneous preconceived idea that mo-ed always refers to the festivals. Rather it is the simple account of the miraculous birth at the appointed time that God had specified.

The major verse in question is Genesis 1:14 combined with Psalm 104:19. “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons (mo-ed), and for days, and years:” “He appointed the moon for seasons (mo-ed): the sun knoweth his going down.” The moon and the other celestial bodies are used to determine the Jewish festivals (in conjunction with the readiness of the barley harvest in Palestine), but does that mean that it was the festivals that were instituted at creation or before? Definitely not. The celestial bodies were used to calculate the pagan birth of the sun (Christmas) and the festival of Ishtar; does that mean God instituted these blasphemies at creation? Certainly not. Our calendars today are still based on calculations of the celestial bodies, are all of our holidays referred to in this verse? Hardly. The heavenly bodies are used for the mo-ed of bird migration (Jeremiah 8:7). The heavenly bodies are used for the mo-ed of planting and harvesting, autumn and spring, etc. To use these texts as proof that the Jewish festivals were in existence at creation is a linguistic blunder of grave proportions. The only way that one can logically come to this idea is embracing the concept that every time mo-ed is used it refers to the Jewish festivals which is patently false on many counts.

The Festivals & the Apostles

There are a couple times when it is mentioned in the New Testament that the apostles, particularly the apostle Paul, recognizes the festivals. The first mention of this is on the festival of weeks, when the Holy Spirit was poured out. “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.” Acts 2:1, 5. The festival of weeks was counted fifty days from the offering of the wave offering of barley (Leviticus 23:15, 16) and was another offering of firstfruits of the wheat harvest. Thus sometimes it is called the “feast of harvest.” Exodus 23:16. The major reason there is comment on this festival is the fact of what happened to the apostles on that day—receiving power from on high. Jesus coronation was completed in heaven, the apostles were prepared for the greatest of gifts and it was poured out giving power to their work. The burden of the inspired record is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the dissemination of the message to those who had gathered for this festival.

In Paul’s journeying, we find him referring to the festivals as a means of time keeping and of his desire to be in Jerusalem for one of the festivals. “But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return again unto you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus.” Acts 18:21. This is probably the strongest verse in the New Testament that shows that one of the apostles actually kept one of the festivals. It shows his desire to be in Jerusalem during the festival. The Greek word translated keep here is poieo which is a very common Greek verb, but not usually translated keep, although that is the most readable translation in this text. The main meaning is “to do or make.” We have other references, too. “And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days.” Acts 20:6. Why he stayed in Philippi for the days of unleavened bread, we are not told. Perhaps the ship owner was a Jew and did not sail during that time. Perhaps it is just a matter of time keeping. Perhaps he enjoyed fellowship with the brethren at that time. For whatever reason he was there, he no doubt used it as a time of witnessing so that he was enabled to redeem the time. Later in the trip we find him trying to make it to Jerusalem by Pentecost. “For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost.” Acts 20:16. Once again, we do not know the circumstances surrounding it other than His desire to make it to Jerusalem. We also have him referring to Pentecost another time. “But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost.” 1 Corinthians 16:8.

We do not find Paul or the other apostles teaching others to have a special regard for the festivals nor do we find them regarding every festival. This sets the festivals apart from the Sabbath, as we have seen throughout the Bible. Paul teaches and expects Jews and Gentiles to keep the Sabbath. “And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath … And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.” Acts 13:42, 44. We find the inspired record recording that it was Paul’s custom to keep the Sabbath. “And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,” Acts 17:2. We find Paul reasoning and teaching in the synagogue every Sabbath. “And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.” Acts 18:4. None of these things are recorded regarding the festivals; we find just passing mention of them being made.

What was the reason that Paul and apparently some of the other apostles regarded the festivals, at all? Paul was attempting to use the festive, national gatherings as an opportunity to share the gospel. He was not trying confirm them in their belief in them, but rather turn their eyes to something much better. Paul’s motives are similar to how we might find a crowded park on the 4th of July and use the congregated people to quickly distribute truth filled literature, or how we may utilize the world’s greater receptiveness and awareness of Biblical topics at the Christmas season to share the true light of the world. Are we religiously celebrating Saturnalia or the birth of the sun or are we prudently using the opportunity give a message from heaven? Paul was desirous to save his countrymen and the festivals were a prime opportunity for his evangelism.

If we use Paul’s tacit recognition of the festivals as justification for why we should keep them, then we will be confronted with some other even bigger dilemmas. When Paul finally arrived in Jerusalem, he was given some very bad advice, but he followed it. “Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law. As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication. Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.” Acts 21:23-26. If we compare what was taking place here, we find that it is the Nazarite vow of Numbers 6. Also note that they were purifying themselves until “an offering should be offered for every one of them.” What was the offering that was offered in conjunction with the Nazarite vow? “And on the eighth day he shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons, to the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: And the priest shall offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering, and make an atonement for him, for that he sinned by the dead, and shall hallow his head that same day. And he shall consecrate unto the LORD the days of his separation, and shall bring a lamb of the first year for a trespass offering: but the days that were before shall be lost, because his separation was defiled.” Numbers 6:10-12. Paul was preparing to offer sacrifices in the temple! If Paul’s passing mention of the festivals is proof that the festivals should be kept today, then what about Paul’s offering sacrifice? Does this teach us to offer sacrifices today? Through following the bad advice of his brethren Paul ended up in Roman custody with his ministry shortened, but imagine that Paul was willing to make a sacrifice at the temple! Would we be willing to do such a thing today? I would suggest that sacrificing today would be high blasphemy. Why? Because it is a denial of all that the sacrifices pointed forward to—Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God. Why did Paul consent to comply with the conditions of the Nazarite vow along with its sacrifices?

At dusk, the sun has set, but it is not dark, yet. It is neither day nor night, but is in a twilight zone. The same occurs at dawn before the sun arises. There are frequently transition periods in life and there are transition periods in changes of great religious economies, too. It was still a transition period in which the Jewish rites were not totally discarded, although it was clearly being recognized that there was a new form of worship now. Paul and the other apostles could sacrifice without incurring blasphemy because God had not fully taken away the Jewish form of worship, but that was soon to happen. The same was true with their regard for the festivals. God had not completely removed them yet because the early church was not ready for it, but that was soon to change. When God takes away the previous form of worship, you cannot go back to it. It becomes blasphemy to revert to the previous God-ordained mode of worship. At first, Adam and Eve and their descendants worshipped at the edge of the Garden of Eden. It was the closest to God’s presence that they could come and they took advantage of this blessing. Everything changed when God removed the Garden of Eden from the earth in the flood. Although it was the acceptable form of worship for many years, God took it away and no one could go back to it. A new mode of worship was introduced after the flood (although there was a transition period before). We could call it the patriarchal worship. The patriarch of each family offered the sacrifices for their family. Consider Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Job, etc. It was worship around an altar erected by each family. There could have been different families with different altars all worshipping the God of heaven. It was the acceptable form of worship, at the time. However another transition came. With the exodus and erection of the tabernacle, another mode of worship was introduced and with the more advanced form of worship, the old method of worship became obsolete, although there was a transition period again. “Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes. For ye are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance, which the LORD your God giveth you. But when ye go over Jordan, and dwell in the land which the LORD your God giveth you to inherit, and when he giveth you rest from all your enemies round about, so that ye dwell in safety; Then there shall be a place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you; your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which ye vow unto the LORD: And ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God, ye, and your sons, and your daughters, and your menservants, and your maidservants, and the Levite that is within your gates; forasmuch as he hath no part nor inheritance with you. Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest:” Deuteronomy 12:8-13. Once they became established in their own land, they were not to sacrifice at any place where they might have been, but they must sacrifice at “a place which the Lord your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there,” namely the tabernacle or temple. The family altar was being taken away and the national worship was being established, but there was still a “twilight period” before the total transition took place. We come down to the death of Christ on the cross as the great sacrifice for our sins. The understanding of the church was growing tremendously and it was recognized that a new form of worship was being introduced, but it was still the “twilight zone.” They were preaching Christ and Him crucified as our great sacrifice. We do not see any expiatory sacrifices that were offered, but there was much discussion about the Jewish rites and services—circumcision, Pharisaical traditions, vows, festivals, etc. After giving the early church a period to become adjusted to the new worship, God took away the national worship of Israel with all its rites and services. In AD 70, the great temple was destroyed never to be replaced. God had taken away the old form of worship; the “twilight zone” was now over and the Jewish services were dispensed with. You could not Biblically sacrifice, make vows, keep the festivals because central to each of these was the temple and it was now removed. It is true that the rabbinical traditions have continued and morphed for the Diaspora in an effort to maintain the Jewish identity, but God had taken all of this away and the Christian church recognized it. The post-temple-destruction Biblical literature carries no traces of debates over circumcision, festivals, etc. because God had taken the old national mode of worship away. To go back to family sacrificing while the tabernacle was standing was blasphemy and to return to the Jewish national worship after the tabernacle has been removed is blasphemy, as well; a virtual denial of all that it represented—Jesus the Messiah.

The Law, Statutes & Judgments

When we look at the “Torah,” we see that there are different categories within the first five books of the Bible. While sometimes in the Bible it is grouped together as one, other times referred to as the “law of Moses,” other times the context is required to determine which is being discussed. The easiest to identify is the Ten Commandments. “And God spake all these words, saying,” “And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.” Exodus 20:1; 31:18. Spoken by the very mouth of God and written with His own finger the Ten Commandments are clearly codified and set apart. There are then the many rites and services relating to the sacrifices, etc. I would refer to these as the “ceremonial law.” There are then many principles for living and interpreting the Ten Commandments. For example, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” “Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt.” Leviticus 18:22; 19:36. These are principles for living that are really a further explanation upon the Ten Commandments. I would refer to these as the “statutes and judgments.” In addition to these three main bodies of law, I would add two more. One is the civil code that was necessary in a theocracy. It included the punishments for various crimes, the most famous of which is: “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,” Exodus 21:24. The final that I would classify is the “sanitary code.” “He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days.” Numbers 19:11. It was a necessary action to bury the dead, but those who touched it were defiled, why? In order to maintain sanitation and cleanliness within such a large encampment a “sanitary code” was essential.

The Ten Commandments are eternal principles which have not been changed. The New Testament is clear on this. “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.” “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” James 2:10-12; 1 John 2:3, 4. The sacrifices and ceremonial rites have been taken away; the destruction of the temple is evident of that. The statutes and judgments such as the injunction against homosexuality, etc. are still applicable to us today as further instruction regarding applying the principles of the Ten Commandments. The civil code is no longer enforceable as there is no longer a theocracy, although the principles are full of fruitful study. The principles of the sanitary code still apply, but the specific details may not. For example, the burial of human waste is still the best modus operandi for preventing disease, but soldiers probably do not need to carry a shovel on the end of their weapon to bury human waste as there are other ways of accomplishing the same end. (Deuteronomy 23:13) The question is in which category do the festivals fall under. Clearly they are not a part of the Ten Commandments; there is no mention of any festivals there. They are not a part of the civil or penal code and they have nothing to do with sanitation, thus there are only two options. Do the festivals fit into the ceremonial law or into the statutes and judgments? The answer we shall see shortly.

The Festivals Are Typical

Why all of the festivals anyway? What was the reason for them? Clearly some are commemorative: the Passover and Festival of Tabernacles. Some are of thankfulness: Festival of Weeks. Some dealt with the plan of salvation: Day of Atonement. They provided for the recreational and social needs of the nation of Israel as well as developing trust in the God of heaven, but all have much greater meaning than just these simplistic ideals. Each one taught important truths regarding the plan of salvation and God’s future dealing with man. You cannot study these beautiful festivals without coming to the conclusion that God was presenting a dynamic portrayal of a parable.

Take for example the beginning festival of the Passover and its accompanying festival of unleavened bread. While commemorative of the deliverance from Egypt, it also represented the deliverance from sin. The New Testament is abundantly clear. “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 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.” 1 Corinthians 5:7, 8. The Passover lamb is Christ! The casting of the leaven from the houses is the casting of malice and wickedness from the hearts! What a beautiful example of the work that Christ for us and in our hearts. What a fruitful study it would be to carefully examine each part of this beautiful prophecy or type of our Savior, Jesus. The feast of weeks coming fifty days after the waving of the first fruits of barley and culminating with the waving of the first fruits of the wheat harvest. What does this represent? “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” 1 Corinthians 15:23. Like the Passover, the festival of weeks clearly represents Christ. As we look at the completion of Christ’s presentation to the Father and the ensuing outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Pentecost, the meaning is clear. The festival of weeks was a type of Christ’s presentation to the Father and the abundant harvest beginning from His work. The autumnal festivals no less represent Christ and His work. The services of the Day of Atonement are clearly connected with the tabernacle with the High Priest, the goats, etc. (Leviticus 16) Did this represent a cleansing of a sanctuary by a high priest? “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.” “It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:” Hebrews 4:14; 9:23, 24. We find that a Great High Priest will indeed cleanse the Holy Places in heaven. The Day of Atonement is typical of Christ’s work, as well. Likewise with the festival of tabernacles, it represents the final culmination of the grand work of salvation being worked out for us. “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” Revelation 21:3. God Himself will dwell (to tent or encamp – skenoo #4637 Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible) with man—the Great Festival of Tabernacles will occur! Every one of the festivals is typical—it represents the great work of Christ for us!

Having seen then, that the festivals do not fit into the Ten Commandments, civil code or sanitary code, what are they a part of? The statutes and judgments give greater explanation into the Ten Commandments and apply those broad principles into practical day to day living. The ceremonial law is the types and shadows that represent the great, antitypical ministry of Christ our Sacrifice and Great High Priest. The festivals are clearly typical. Every last one and every detail of everyone is an acted representation of Jesus’ true ministry for us. Without these beautiful types, we would miss much of the beauty and the fullness of Christ’s ministry for us. (e.g. the Day of Atonement, etc.) Are these festivals typical or are they the principles of the Ten Commandments for daily living? Without a doubt, the festivals are typical, thus they fall into the category of the ceremonial law.

The Types are Abolished

We now turn our attention to the question of exactly what was changed and abolished with the transfer from the Jewish services to the Christian dispensation. It is unquestionable that there was a change, but what was changed. “For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law … For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.” Hebrews 7:12, 18, 19. A change was necessary, but what was changed?

Circumcision, the most hotly debated issue, was changed. “And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.” Acts 15:1, 2. The teaching arose that circumcision was necessary and Paul did not agree. They conferred in Jerusalem and the decision of the council dictated by the Holy Spirit was that circumcision was unnecessary. Thus Paul could clearly write afterward: “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.” 1 Corinthians 7:19. Circumcision was clearly abolished. Circumcision was not a sacrifice that pointed forward to Christ, why then was the religious necessity of circumcision abolished? Circumcision was not a sacrifice of an animal, but it was a type of the heart experience of the new covenant. “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.” “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.” “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 4:4; Romans 2:28, 29. Circumcision was not a sacrifice, but it was a type of the circumcision of the heart that Christ is to perform for every man, woman and child that will be saved. The unquestionable abolition of circumcision was because it was a rite that was a type of Christ’s work and all typical rites of Christ’s work were annulled.

Paul clearly tells us that all shadows of things to come were nailed to the cross. “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.” Hebrews 10:1. The shadow of good things to come cannot make us perfect and thus were done away with. “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” Colossians 2:14-17. Something was blotted out at the cross. Something was nailed to the cross. What was it? “The handwriting of ordinances that was against us.” What is this handwriting of ordinances which is against us? He continues in verse 16, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:” Colossians 2:16. It refers to food, drink, festival, new moon and Sabbath days. Was all food, drink, etc. abolished at the cross, what food, drink, etc.? “Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” Colossians 2:17. The part of the food, drink, festivals, new moons and Sabbaths that was nailed to the cross was the shadow. Are there aspects of food and drink that was a shadow (type, representation) of Christ? Absolutely, from the Passover lamb to the various food and drink offerings. Food and drink offerings are no longer made because they were nailed to the cross. Are the feasts types or shadows of Christ? Unquestioningly. We have already surveyed how all of the festivals were types of Christ’s work. Every rite of these festivals was pregnant with meaning for the diligent searcher into the Messiah’s work. Even the very date and times were typical. Christ died at the exact time of the slaying of the Passover lamb. The Holy Spirit was poured out on the very date of the festival of weeks or harvest. Everything from the sacrifices, to the participation of the worshippers, to the very dates and times was a shadow and thus everything about these festivals is nailed to the cross. To argue that only parts of the festivals were abolished is to deny the very meaning of the festivals themselves. The Passover lamb was slain on the 14th day, the next day the 15th was a yearly Sabbath, the 16th the wave sheaf was offered. Jesus died on Friday, rested in the tomb on the Sabbath and was resurrected as the firstfruits on Sunday. The very dates were typical of Christ’s work, thus according to the Bible they are annulled, too. The annual Sabbaths (the Passover Sabbath, the blowing of trumpets Sabbath, the Day of Atonement Sabbath, the two festival of tabernacles Sabbath; Leviticus. 23:7, 8, 24, 32, 39) were like the festivals completely typical of Christ and His work, thus they likewise are abolished. The entire question when looking at what was nailed to the cross is what was typical. The seventh-day Sabbath is typical of nothing. It is a memorial of creation. It is written in stone in the Ten Commandments. It was given by God before sin. Without question, the festivals are totally and completely typical from beginning to end; everything about them is typical and thus everything associated with them is done away with. The festivals like the sacrifices are nailed to the cross.

The Insult

When God changes the modes and methods of worship, to argue that God does not know what He is doing is the ultimate insult. The churches of Galatia did just this and Paul uses the strongest language possible to denounce this ultimate insult to the God of heaven and this jeopardizing of their salvation.

What was the problem in Galatia? Paul tells the history of his life and particularly how it related to the conflicts of the time: circumcision, eating with Gentiles, etc. He begins the theological portion of the book with “knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law.” Galatians 2:16. They are trying to be “made perfect by the flesh.” Galatians 3:3. He reiterates repeatedly through various ways that “there is neither Jew nor Greek.” Galatians 3:28. They were Gentile converts (Galatians 4:8), but they had espoused the idea that was being circulated that “Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved,” and “that it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” Acts 15:1, 5. The picture is clear. They were non-Jews who had become Christians, but because of the Judaizing teachers, they now believed that you had to keep at least parts of the Jewish rites and tradition. It had destroyed their faith as they had lost sight of Christ and focused on the Jewish ceremonies. Paul saw that they were in grave danger and with clarion call he warned them on two fronts: circumcision and the festivals. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” Galatians 5:1-4. To return to the typical rites that God had abolished was to make Christ “profit you nothing.” Why? Because in embracing the shadow they rejected the substance. When God changes the mode of worship, He will not be trifled with. To return to the typical rites is the ultimate insult and a rejection of Christ, whatever the profession. To seek to build again what had been destroyed is to “fall from grace.” Serious words indeed, but equally serious words for the festivals. “Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.” Galatians 4:10, 11. Because they were teaching that people must keep the Jewish festivals, Paul was afraid that he had bestowed labor in vain and that they would be lost. They had succumbed to the ultimate insult. It is true that Paul does not specifically mention the festivals, but the festivals were days and months and times and years. When we look at the entire context of the book of Galatians, there can be little doubt. The difficulty is not compromising pagans, but Judaizing believers. Circumcision and the festivals leading to a departure from faith in Christ were the issue. The Galatians were in grave spiritual danger, are Judaizing Christians today in the same danger?


God commands, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Exodus 20:8. This command loses none of its force throughout the New Testament. The clarion call of obedience to God’s commandments is repeated throughout. “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” “And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” James 2:10; Matthew 19:17; Romans 3:31; 1 John 2:3, 4; Revelation 12:17; 14:12; 22:14. The command or call to remember the festivals is clearly missing. God asks us to obey His Ten Commandments, including the Sabbath commandment, let us not muddle the issue by returning to what God has done away with. For many the path of disobedience to the Sabbath started with acceptance of the festivals. When close study revealed to them that remembering the festivals could not be established Biblically, out went the Sabbath, too. One of the major problems with remembering the festivals is that it leads to just this – a devaluation of what God has commanded us to remember. Let us not make a subtle attack upon God’s Law by attaching something to it which God has never attached.

In review, the festivals are clearly amoral because they have been set aside by God for decades and God never temporarily suspends moral requirements. The festivals are integrally attached to the rites like circumcision which are clearly abolished. The actual time of the festivals was not what was important, the time could be and was altered – the illustrated lesson of the plan of salvation was what was significant. The festivals are clearly “Jewish festivals” for the Jewish agricultural season, earthly tabernacle and national commemoration, but we live in a time in which “there is neither Jew nor Greek… for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28. A close analysis of the word mo-ed reveals that only occasionally does it refer to God’s appointed festivals. Mo-ed simply means “appointment,” whether God’s or man’s or animal’s. It cannot logically or honestly be construed to teach a pre-exodus observance of the festivals. While the apostles used the festivals as witnessing opportunities, they never taught the necessity of remembering them. The festivals are unquestioningly typical and thus the only place for them in the torah is the ceremonial law, not the moral code. Anything that was a part of the typical, ceremonial law even if it was not sacrificial, like circumcision, was nailed to the cross. Let us be careful lest we find ourselves inadvertently following the pernicious path of the Galatians.

I recognize that it is not possible to answer every question and argument put forth, but that is never possible, for it is not the way that God works. There are always hooks to hang our doubt upon if desired, but God always gives enough evidence to come to a rational conclusion. The great bulk of the evidence suggests that the festivals are typical and thus no longer to be observed; let us be careful lest we try to find excuses to explain away the weight of evidence. Whenever this happens, I am always reminded of the book on Catholic apologetics in my library. There is an answer for everything. They do not actually worship the statues; Mary is not really someone who is a mediator. Every strong proof text used to show the danger of their position is circumvented with an outwardly plausible argument. Let us take the Word of God simply as it reads and not hide behind pleasing words.

Certainly the festivals still deserve a great deal of study and appreciation. Like the rest of the sacrificial system, they were instituted by God to teach beautiful and deep truths; let us dig into the treasure trove. There are also many practical lessons we can learn from them. The Israelites were required to take time off from their work to meditate upon spiritual things. God provided for them and protected them during these times. Should we do the same at times? Not to observe the festivals, but simply to learn the lessons for faith and trust. Do not campmeetings provide for these lessons?

I appreciate the conscientiousness of those who are willing to attempt to observe the festivals. A desire is manifested to live by every word of God, whether popular or not. This is a laudable desire that we all need to learn, but not to lead us to live by words God has not commanded. I have known individuals who have gone from staunch Christians to Jesus-rejecting Jews through the path of the festivals. Then there is the converse side of those who have rejected obedience to God’s Ten Commandments through the path of the festivals. There is a reason that God has abolished them, let us not walk where He has not bidden. If you are a Jew but desire to reach your fellow countrymen with the message of Jesus, perhaps utilizing your national festivals as the apostles did to lead men and women to the Savior could be a possible approach, but this should be the extent of it. If you believe that the festivals are part of the moral law or are a necessity to be kept, be very careful lest “Christ shall profit you nothing.” Galatians 5:2. If you believe that remembering the festivals is “new light” that all should accept, be very careful for you are treading dangerously close to Christ becoming “of no effect unto you” and falling “from grace.” Galatians 5:4. Let us unite in great truths that the festivals taught not in the passing shadow.


Categories Articles, Booklets, Free Books | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Posted on June 1, 2011

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