Did you realize that the Bible contains exciting knowledge that is rarely noticed? It has everything to do with God’s marvelous plan for humanity revealed through the biblical festivals that Jesus Christ Himself observed.
When I grew up attending a mainstream Christian church I simply assumed that what I had been taught was correct. However, in my early 20s I was challenged to compare my beliefs with the Bible’s teachings. When studying holidays like Christmas and Easter and
many other subjects, I was shocked to discover major, glaring conflicts with my church’s age-old doctrines and traditions. They simply didn’t agree with the Bible’s instruction.
In examining what the Bible actually revealed, I was introduced to something marvelous—that God had instituted an exciting, step-by-step plan for the future of mankind. This amazing blueprint is revealed in the seamless panorama of the seventh-day Sabbath and the Bible’s seven annual festivals (see Deuteronomy 5:12-14; Leviticus 23:1-44). While each one of these has unique features, they all interact and align perfectly to illuminate God’s plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. Furthermore, I learned that Jesus Himself faithfully observed the Sabbath and these festivals throughout His entire earthly life—leaving an example for everyone to follow (1 John 2:6).
So are you up for a challenge—one that may conflict with some of your beliefs and yet can show you the pathway to tremendous spiritual insight and incredible hope? If so, join me on a brief journey through Holy Scripture to discover what it says about God’s great plan of salvation as illustrated through the biblical festivals Jesus observed. These include Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles and the Eighth Day. While some people label these observances as merely “Jewish,” God in fact declares, “These are My feasts” (Leviticus 23:2, emphasis added throughout).
The weekly Sabbath day
God established the seven-day weekly cycle at the time of creation when He “rested on the seventh day” and set it apart as holy time (Genesis 2:1-3; Mark 2:28). In doing so He commanded all people to observe the weekly Sabbath by resting from their labors (Exodus 31:13-17; Hebrews 4:1-11). In addition to pointing to the true God of creation, the Sabbath looks forward to the future return of Jesus Christ to establish the Kingdom of God on earth, bringing humanity relief and rest from evil, contention and suffering.
It is important to note that Jesus diligently observed the Sabbath (Luke 4:16, 31; 13:10; Mark 6:2), as did the apostles and other members of His early Church (Acts 13:14-44; 15:20-21; 17:1-3, 18:4). Their example is one everyone should follow today.
Passover memorializes the miraculous event by which God broke the bonds of ancient Israel’s enslavement in Egypt. On the first Passover evening a lamb was slain, roasted and eaten in each Israelite household. The lamb’s blood was placed on the lintel and doorposts of their homes as a sign of God’s protection from the plague of death upon Egypt’s firstborn (Exodus 12:12-13).
Scripture reveals that the lambs symbolized Jesus Christ as the future sacrificial “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He did this by willingly dying, His blood shed so that every person could be spared from eternal spiritual death (Matthew 26:28; Romans 5:20-21). At the Passover observance with His disciples the night before His death, Jesus shared the symbols of unleavened bread and wine as representing His sinless body and His blood poured out to cleanse all those who repent of their sins (Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 1:7).
Jesus had been observing the Passover throughout His human life. “His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast” (Luke 2:41-42). At age 30, when Jesus began His earthly ministry, He was still observing it as He always had: “Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem” (John 2:13). (It’s termed “the Passover of the Jews” here since the Jews observed it while gentiles did not.)
Then later, as noted above, He observed the Passover at the time of His sacrificial death (Matthew 26:17-19). Plus, it’s important to note that more than two decades later, the apostles and other members of His Church were still observing the Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).
The Feast of Unleavened Bread
Returning to the story of ancient Israel, the Bible explains that the morning after the Passover, the Israelites began to gather in preparation for hastily leaving Egypt that evening. At that time “they baked unleavened cakes of the dough . . . because they were driven out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared provisions for themselves” (Exodus 12:39).
God told the Israelites to observe the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread each year as a reminder that He freed them from terrible bondage (Leviticus 23:5-8). This is emblematic of our redemption from the spiritual slavery of sin through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. Unleavened bread is symbolic of Jesus’ life, unblemished by sin, which all people must strive to imitate. Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life (John 6:33, 35, 48, 51), is at the center of this festival—as He is in all of God’s Holy Days. He personally observed this feast, as did the apostles and the Church—then and now (Acts 20:6; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8).
The Feast of Pentecost
The Bible shows that God spoke the Ten Commandments to the Israelites at Mount Sinai about the time of Pentecost (Jewish tradition holding that this was the exact day). God at that time made a covenant with them, stating that after they agreed to its terms they would “be a special treasure” to Him (Exodus 19:1-8).
This relationship was a forerunner to a far more meaningful one involving Christ’s disciples on a later Day of Pentecost. “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:1-4).
This defining moment not only marked the birth of the New Testament Church but began fulfilling God’s promise to make a new covenant with faithful disciples by writing His laws on their hearts and minds (Ezekiel 36:26-27; Jeremiah 31:31-33). The members of God’s Church today follow the example of Jesus and His early disciples in observing this Holy Day (Acts 20:16). By doing so they are reminded of the hope, joy and divine transformation that God provides through the power of His Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5; 2 Corinthians 6:6; 13:14).
The Feast of Trumpets
In Scripture, trumpets—whether metal instruments or rams’ horns—were employed for important purposes including calling people to assemble (Numbers 10:1-10), an alarm of impending war (Jeremiah 4:19) and the proclamation of a king’s coronation (1 Kings 1:39-40). Trumpets were also blown to announce the beginning of the Feast of Trumpets—the first of four Holy Days of the fall harvest season (Leviticus 23:24).
The weighty characteristic of the Feast of Trumpets is its vital connection to biblical prophecy of a great, future trumpet blast announcing the turning point in all of human history—the second coming of Jesus Christ! (Revelation 19:16).
It also reminds us of another key event that will occur when that trumpet sounds—the resurrection of Christ’s faithful followers: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; see also Job 14:14-15; Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 15:50-55).
When Jesus walked the earth as a man He observed the Feast of Trumpets, and on His return at the sound of the great trumpet He will fulfill its meaning by taking over the rule of this world and ushering God’s spirit-born sons and daughters into His glorious Kingdom and family (Isaiah 52:7; 1 Corinthians 15:51). This is why God’s people today keep this Holy Day and all of His festivals to fully comprehend and deeply appreciate His marvelous plan of salvation!
The Day of Atonement
The Bible explains that Satan is a real spirit being who possesses immense power to deceive people and influence them to disobey God’s commandments—resulting in terrible suffering and anguish (Revelation 12:9; Ephesians 2:2; 1 Peter 5:8).
The Day of Atonement, observed with fasting, pictures a marvelous time when, shortly after Jesus Christ’s second coming, Satan the devil and his demons will be bound for 1,000 years (Leviticus 16:20-22, 29-30). The apostle John describes this in Revelation 20:1-2: “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.”
With Satan’s poisonous influence severed, Jesus will begin removing humanity’s spiritual blindness (2 Corinthians 4:3-4) so that in due time, “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). Additionally, the Day of Atonement reveals that Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice will ultimately be made available to all people for the cleansing of their sins, giving everyone the opportunity to obtain salvation (John 3:17).
The Feast of Tabernacles
The first time the Feast of Tabernacles is mentioned in Scripture it is referred to as the Feast of Ingathering (Exodus 23:16). In ancient Israel, this was a great fall harvest festival where the people rejoiced together while thanking God for His blessings of prosperity and protection (Deuteronomy 12:10-12). During the seven-day festival the people dwelt in temporary shelters made from branches of trees. This was to remind them that God dwelt with and sustained them throughout their 40-year wandering in the wilderness (Exodus 25:8-9; 1 Corinthians 10:4; Leviticus 23:42-43).
Just as Jesus personally kept the Feast of Tabernacles, His present-day disciples do the same (John 7:2-14). Furthermore, this seven-day festival, which begins with an annual Holy Day (Leviticus 23:34-35), pictures the coming time when Christ will dwell with man on earth (Romans 11:26). And Jesus will reign on earth for a thousand years as King of Kings (Revelation 19:16; 20:4, 6).
During that magnificent future age, all people will not only learn God’s ways but will experience extraordinary peace and prosperity, while being brought into a close relationship with their Creator (Isaiah 11:9-10).
The Eighth Day
The Eighth Day immediately follows the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles and adds an intensely exciting element to God’s perfect plan. It reveals that Jesus Christ will complete His great harvest of human beings by raising from the dead all people who had never heard about Him or learned and lived God’s way of life! All of these resurrected people, raised to temporary physical life again, will be given the opportunity for salvation and eternal life (see Ezekiel 37:1-14; Romans 11:25-27; Revelation 20:11-13).
Again, as with the Sabbath and the other Holy Days, Jesus Christ observed this Eighth Day, as the people of His true Church also do today.
In summary, God’s amazing plan for humanity is revealed in the marvelous panorama of the weekly seventh-day Sabbath and His seven annual festivals—all of which interrelate to light the pathway to salvation through Jesus Christ. As was noted, Jesus obediently observed each festival during His earthly ministry. In doing so He left an example for His disciples to imitate so they could understand God’s loving plan of salvation. In fact, thousands of people from around the world gather in many locations to keep God’s festivals each year.
What does this mean for you? Will you carefully consider what you’ve read here and study it on your own with the aim of growing in spiritual understanding? If so, and if you follow Jesus’ example of keeping the Sabbath and festivals of the Bible, it can lead you to experience tremendous joy and peace in knowing God and His awesome plan for you and all people. We hope and pray you are up for the challenge!
The Truth About Christmas and Easter
Many people assume that Christmas and Easter originate in the Bible. But the fact is, Christian observance of these days is found nowhere in Scripture. (There is one place where Passover is incorrectly translated “Easter” in Acts 12:4 in the King James Version.)
Actually, Christmas and Easter emerged from ancient festivals honoring pagan gods. James Hastings, editor of The Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, wrote, “Most of the Christmas customs . . . are not genuine Christian customs, but heathen customs which have been absorbed or tolerated by the Church” (1910, Vol. 3, p. 608, emphasis added throughout).
Regarding Easter, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words states: “The term ‘Easter’ is not of Christian origin. It is another form of Astarte, one of the titles of the Chaldean goddess, the queen of heaven. ‘Easter’ was . . . introduced into the apostate Western religion, as part of the attempt to adapt pagan festivals to Christianity” (1985).
When challenged by such statements, many professing Christians might justify continuing in these observances by saying, “Shouldn’t we be able to worship God any way we choose?” The answer is no, for God said not to worship Him with pagan religious customs (Deuteronomy 12:29-32; Jeremiah 10:2).
The truth is, God has already decided how He wants to be worshipped, which is by means of His own holy festivals. Otherwise, as Jesus said, “In vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). Furthermore, He explained that “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23).
So how about you? Are you worshipping God as He directs? If not, isn’t now the time to start?