By George M. Kackos
The Good News, August 1983
Scene one: A young woman walks through a semitropical garden filled with beautiful trees loaded with luscious fruit. Everything looks so good — so right.
But is it?
Suddenly she is confronted by a talking serpent who asks about God’s commands. Subtly, the serpent reasons with her until she decides to eat the fruit forbidden her by her Creator. Her husband then follows her example of disobedience.
From that time forward, mankind continues to be subject to Satan’s influence. Consequently, all humans sin and fall short of God’s glory.
Scene two: A young man, once strong and virile, is nailed to a stake. Blood oozes from deep, gaping lacerations in His body, wounds inflicted by a savage beating. Tormentors surround Him, arrogantly jeering, “He can save others, but not Himself!”
But the man’s mind is not on revenge; it is on the ultimate purpose of His suffering, which is to provide the sacrifice necessary for mankind’s salvation.
Finally, after many hours of suffering, death comes suddenly. Three days later He is resurrected. He rejoins His Father, where He serves as High Priest and soon-coming King for all humanity.
Scene three: The earth has been devastated. Plant and aquatic life are almost nonexistent. The human population has been reduced to a small fraction of its former size by the terrifying events of the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.
Everywhere there is destruction, but there is also hope. Jesus Christ has intervened in world affairs. One obstacle remains — the presence of Satan the devil, mankind’s enemy for 6,000 years.
To eliminate this threat to global peace, an angel is sent to bind Satan. Satan is taken to a place of restraint where he is prohibited from influencing mankind for a thousand years.
Is there a relationship between these scenes? The answer is yes. There is a profound relationship that can be understood by studying the meaning of one of God’s annual festivals — the Day of Atonement.
This Day is commanded
Most professing Christians don’t even know that this Festival of God exists. Many who have heard of it think that it is no longer to be kept. But what does God say?
“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God…. You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings’ ” (Lev. 23:26-28, 31).
This year the Day of Atonement falls on September 17. Some will reason that this command ceased to be in force after Christ’s crucifixion. Such reasoning is false! Jesus Christ did not come to nail God’s annual Holy Days to the cross (Matt. 5:17-18) .
The fact is that God’s festivals have only begun to be fulfilled. These days picture aspects of God’s plan of salvation (Col. 2:16-17), and must be observed by true Christians.
For more information on God’s true Holy Days and what each one pictures, write for our free booklet Pagan Holidays — or God’s Holy Days — Which?
But what about the ritualistic laws that the Old Testament commanded with festival observance? Are they to be kept, or have they been fulfilled?
The purpose of the physical rituals God gave to ancient Israel was to remind the people of the need for the payment of their sins. The various sacrifices pointed ahead to the sacrifice of One who would come later in history as Savior of all mankind.
So the ritualistic laws were fulfilled by the events leading to and including Christ’s own sacrificial death. Therefore they need not be kept today, nor can they be, as there is no Aaronic priesthood to perform these physical duties (Heb. 9:8-10, 10:1-4, 9-12).
The ritualistic laws are no longer performed, but their various aspects still have symbolic meaning. For each festival, we seek to understand all the festival’s meanings, as revealed in the Bible, as they relate to salvation.
The Tabernacle and the priesthood
Before we proceed with a study of these rituals and symbols, it is necessary for us to understand some things about the Tabernacle and the priesthood.
After making the covenant agreement with Israel, God told the nation to build a Tabernacle, which is a physical type of God’s habitation in heaven (Ex. 25-27, 30, Heb. 9:23-24). The Tabernacle consisted of an enclosed courtyard, containing an altar for animal sacrifices and a tent.
The tent was divided into two sections by a veil. The section behind the veil was called the “Most Holy” place or “Holiest of All.” The other section was the “holy place” (Ex. 26:33, Heb. 9:3). The most holy place represented God’s throne. Located here was the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the Ten Commandments and other items (Deut. 10:2, 31:26, Ex. 16:33-34, Num. 17:1-10). The lid of the Ark was called the mercy seat; this was where God manifested Himself (Ex. 25:22).
The job of high priest was given to Aaron; his sons served as priests. As time passed, other of his descendants held these positions. As priests, they performed various animal sacrifices and ceremonies on behalf of Israel.
[Photo Caption — Artist’s rendering (left) shows the Tabernacle in the form of a model. The Tabernacle was a physical type of God’s habitation in heaven. Below, a diagram of the layout of the Tabernacle.]
Rituals for Aaron
This was the only day when Aaron was allowed to enter the most holy place. Before doing this, he had to bathe and dress himself in his priestly garments (Lev. 16:4). Then he had to offer on the altar a bullock as a sin offering for himself.
Once this was completed, he took a censer, a vessel that held burning coals, from the altar and entered the most holy place. He then took incense, an aromatic compound, and placed it on the burning coals. Next he sprinkled blood from the bullock on the mercy seat, which represented God’s throne (verses 11-14).
Washing himself pictured having his conscience changed to accept God’s standard of righteousness (Heb. 10:22). His linen coat symbolized living a righteous life (Rev. 19:8). The incense pictured prayers ascending to God (Ps. 141:2, Rev. 5:8). The blood represented the way sins are forgiven (Heb. 9:13-14, Rom. 3:25).
Aaron, the high priest, was a type of Jesus Christ, who is now our High Priest (Heb. 3:1). By living a sinless life, Jesus qualified to offer Himself as a sin sacrifice for all humanity through His crucifixion.
After Jesus’ death, the veil in the Temple (the Temple had replaced the Tabernacle) was torn in two from top to bottom (Matt. 27:50-51). The torn veil represented the fact that we are now allowed direct contact with God the Father through prayer (Heb. 10:19-22, John 16:23).
This contact is something that those living before Christ’s resurrection did not have; their access was limited to the Word of God, the God of the Old Testament who became Jesus Christ.
The two goats
Now that Aaron had completed sacrifices for himself, what happened next?
“The two goats he must place in front of the Eternal at the entrance to the Trysting tent [Tabernacle]; Aaron shall cast lots over the goats, one lot for the Eternal and the other for Azazel the demon; the goat that falls by lot to the Eternal shall be brought forward and offered as a sin-offering, but the goat that falls by lot to Azazel shall be set free in presence of the Eternal, that Aaron may perform expiatory rites over it and send it away for Azazel into the desert” (Lev. 16:7-10, Moffatt).
Whom did this slain goat, whose blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat and the altar for the sins of the people (Lev. 16:15-19), represent? The answer is Christ, who was slain and whose blood was shed for the forgiveness of our sins (Heb. 9:12, 22-26).
But Christ’s death has not completed the job of making atonement for the sins of humanity. Why? Because Satan, the god of this world, has blinded the minds of most people. Consequently, mankind rejects the true Gospel, which includes accepting the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and living a righteous life (II Cor. 4:3-4, Rev. 12:9).
The answer is revealed through the symbolism of the live goat — the azazel, in Hebrew.
Says The Comprehensive Commentary: “[According to] the oldest opinions of the Hebrews and Christians … Azazel is the name of the Devil … the word signified the goat which went away.” The azazel was the goat that was sent into the wilderness.
This azazel is sometimes referred to as the “escape goat” or “scapegoat.” But these terms make the meaning unclear. Scapegoat has come to mean “one who bears blame or guilt for others.” This is not the case with Satan. He is guilty of influencing mankind into disobeying God (Eph. 2:2). And he will be punished for it — Satan will bear his own guilt! He will not be allowed to escape.
Satan to be bound
The live goat was brought before Aaron, who, as we have seen, is a type of Jesus Christ, our High Priest. Aaron laid hands on this goat, confessing upon it the people’s sins. Then it was led by another individual into the wilderness where it was released (Lev. 16:20-22).
How is this symbolism going to be fulfilled? Jesus is coming to this earth again, this time to rule. He will order Satan bound and taken to a place of restraint for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3).
The world will then become free of Satan’s influence and responsive to God’s way of life; men’s sins will be laid to Satan’s charge. The change will be remarkable. Humanity as a whole will accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and live according to God’s law (Isa. 11:9). Finally, there will be universal peace, joy and happiness (Jer. 31:12-14).
What about fasting?
In addition to the symbolism of the sacrifices, there is another aspect of this Festival that we must consider. Notice Leviticus 16:29: “This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who sojourns among you.”
What does it mean “afflict your soul”? The word afflict (Hebrew anah) is translated “humble” in Psalm 35:13, where David said, “I humbled myself with fasting.” So afflicting oneself means to fast.
Biblical examples show that fasting means to go without food and water (Deut. 9:9, 18, Esther 4:16, Acts 9:8-9). This is the only day when we are commanded to fast. It is so important that in the New Testament we see this Festival referred to as “the Fast” (Acts 27:9).
The purpose of fasting is to humble ourselves, to see our insignificance and realize our need for and utter dependence on God (Jas. 4:9-10). God does not hold us guiltless for the sins that Satan influences us to commit. We bear a responsibility for yielding to Satan’s temptations.
God wants you to examine yourself so you will recognize your shortcomings and overcome them. These are the conditions of a proper fast that will cause God to intervene on your behalf. (For more information on fasting, write for our free reprint article “But by Prayer and Fasting.”)
Keep this Festival
The Ambassador College
Bible Correspondence Course Lesson 23, 1985
Why Christians Should Keep GOD’S HOLY DAYS
Why did God institute the WEEKLY Sabbath and, later, seven ANNUAL Sabbaths? What do they picture? Were GOD’S Holy Days for ancient Israel only, or are they also for the New Testament Church of God?
GOD created mankind for a stupendous, awe-inspiring purpose! That incredible purpose was first revealed when man was created. God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26).
Your Bible here reveals that God is reproducing Himself through man. God made us for the purpose of fashioning and molding us into His character “image” — ultimately to be born as spirit-composed members of His universe-ruling Family!
But this creative work takes time. To accomplish this wonderful purpose in mankind, God has allotted 7,000 years — seven millennial “days” (II Pet. 3:8).
During the first 6,000 years since Adam’s sin, God has allowed humanity to go its own way, do its own thing, govern itself by its own laws, as influenced by Satan. During the last 1,000 years, man will be ruled directly by Jesus Christ and the saints. Satan will then be completely restrained from broadcasting his evil attitudes to people.
The Bible reveals that God instituted for His Church certain days that picture His purpose for human life, and the plan by which He is accomplishing that purpose.
Weekly Sabbath Pictures God’s Purpose
When God set apart and made holy the seventh-day Sabbath for man (Gen. 2:2-3; Mark 2:27), He gave mankind a day of rest that has great significance.
To His “Church in the wilderness” — the congregation of ancient Israel (Acts 7:38) — God revealed that Sabbath keeping would be a “sign” between Him and His people (Ex. 31:16-17). This sign is a proof of identity. Keeping the weekly Sabbath reminds us that God is the Creator of all things, including man. It is also a major sign identifying the true people of God!
The Sabbath also pictures to God’s people the soon-coming Millennium, when mankind will experience “rest” from war, poverty, fear and suffering. This 1,000-year period will be the seventh millennial “day” — the “Sabbath”- -of God’s 7,000-year “week.” It is then that the knowledge of God’s wonderful purpose will fill the earth (Isa. 11:9).
But the keeping of the seventh-day Sabbath has even further significance and meaning. It also looks forward to the completion of God’s spiritual creation in man. The Sabbath is a type of the Christian’s future spiritual “rest” — of being born into the divine Kingdom or Family of God! When born of God’s Spirit, we will no longer be working against the weaknesses of our present mortal flesh. With spirit-composed bodies, we will never become tired or weary. We’ll always be alert and active!
The Bible also reveals that God set apart and made holy certain other days of the year in addition to the weekly Sabbath.
Annual Holy Days Picture God’s Master Plan
God has a Master Plan by which He is fulfilling His awesome purpose for mankind. And His Son, Jesus Christ, plays the central role in God’s little-known plan for man.
God’s plan is revealed by seven annual festivals. These annual observances give a step-by-step outline of how God is working out His Master Plan for man. Each vividly pictures a great event in God’s plan. It was not until after the Israelites were delivered from Egypt that God revealed the rest of His annual festivals.
As God made the weekly Sabbath for man when man was made, so He gave His people seven annual festivals, with their annual Holy Days (Sabbaths), when He established the Church (or congregation of Israel) in the wilderness. But Israel, under the covenant made at Sinai, had no promise of receiving the Holy Spirit, and therefore could not understand the spiritual meaning of these annual observances.
Regardless of carnal Israel’s lack of understanding, God’s annual Holy Days were ordained to be kept FOREVER! Christ kept them. The New Testament Church, founded by Jesus in A.D. 31, kept them. And God’s Church keeps them today!
Just as the weekly Sabbath is a “sign” between God and His people, so are the annual Holy Days (Ex. 31:13). They are the “feasts of the LORD” — “my feasts,” said God (Lev. 23:2, 4).
These feasts are, as the God of the Old Testament said in Leviticus 23:37-38, to be kept as holy convocations “beside the [weekly] sabbaths of the LORD”! And as we learned in Lesson 17, God’s festivals, which are a part of God’s Law, were not done away with when the Sinaitic Covenant ceased to be in force at Christ’s death.
The whole story of God’s marvelous plan is to be re-enacted year after year by God’s Spirit-begotten children — spiritual Israel today — through the keeping of God’s Holy Days. The observance of these days reminds them of His great Master Plan and their part in it.
God’s Spiritual Harvests
In the land settled by ancient Israel (later known as Palestine and now occupied by the modern state of Israel), there is a small spring grain harvest followed by a much larger late summer and autumn harvest. These yearly agricultural harvests are symbolic of God’s spiritual “harvests” of mankind!
Today, we can understand from the teachings of Christ and the apostles that God intends the spring festivals to illustrate that all those He has called to become His Spirit-begotten children before Christ’s Second Coming are only the “firstfruits” harvest (Jas. 1:18) — only the relatively small beginning of His spiritual harvest of individuals into His divine Family.
The festivals of the much larger autumn harvest season picture God’s calling of thousands of millions of humanity to salvation and Sonship in His glorious Family after Christ’s return.
In Leviticus 23, we find a summary of these annual festivals. The first three, beginning with the Passover, are memorials of the first part of God’s Master Plan. They picture the firstfruits of Christ’s labors. The last four festivals look forward to the future and show how and when God will reap the great autumn harvest of people into His Family!
Holy Days Preserved for God’s Church
The ancient Israelites, in general, did not understand God’s great purpose for mankind. Nor did they understand the spiritual significance of the steps within God’s Master Plan as pictured by His annual Holy Days. God did not reveal this spiritual understanding to them (Eph. 3:4-5) because it was not yet His time to give them His Holy Spirit.
Then why did Christ give God’s Law and Holy Days to ancient Israel?
The Bible tells us that the “oracles” — the Old Testament Scriptures, which include the knowledge of God’s weekly Sabbath, annual Sabbaths and festivals, and God’s true calendar — were given to Israel to be passed on from generation to generation. The Israelites, as we read in Acts 7:38, “received the lively oracles to give unto us [New Testament Christians].”
But more than seven centuries later, the house of Israel went into Assyrian captivity, losing their identity and their knowledge of God. They did not preserve the Hebrew or Old Testament Scriptures nor God’s calendar for Christians today.
Then who did?
The house of Judah — the Jews — which became separated from the nation Israel after the death of Solomon, went into Babylonian captivity during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar about 120 years later. But Judah retained the knowledge of her identity and her God.
Recognizing the fact that they had gone into Babylonian captivity for breaking the Sabbath (Neh. 13:17-18), the Jews became overly strict in its observance. Even though they lacked spiritual understanding, they faithfully retained the knowledge of the true Sabbath, and preserved the Old Testament Scriptures and the true calendar.
Notice what Paul, under inspiration of God, asks: “What advantage then hath the Jew?” Then he answers in part: “Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God” (Rom. 3:1-2).
God used the Jews to preserve the Hebrew or Old Testament Scriptures, the weekly Sabbath and the calendar by which we may know exactly when to keep God’s Holy Days each year. Of all the tribes of Israel, God entrusted the Jews to be the carriers of this revealed knowledge for the New Testament Spirit-begotten Church!
All of God’s festivals are listed together in Leviticus 23, starting with the seventh-day Sabbath, a weekly festival. Lessons 24 through 31 will cover these important festivals thoroughly, beginning with the weekly Sabbath. An entire lesson will be devoted to each. The vital details of God’s Master Plan for fulfilling His great purpose in man will unfold for you in the coming months.
This lesson will present a brief OVERVIEW of each of God’s Holy Days, focusing on their symbolic meaning and specific relevance to Christians today. Let’s begin to understand the tremendous meaning of these “feasts of the LORD”!
God’s Seventh-day Sabbath
As we have learned in previous lessons, God’s plan calls for the restoration of His government on earth through His divine ruling Kingdom, composed of future Spirit-born members of His Family. God’s government is based on His spiritual Law of love. It is love toward God and love toward fellowman. God’s love is further magnified by the Ten Commandments, the first four of which show us how to love God — how we are to worship Him.
The fourth commandment, like the other nine, is an absolutely essential part of God’s Law. Keeping God’s seventh-day Sabbath holy is a sign that identifies those who worship the Creator God, and Him only. This is because the Sabbath is a memorial of God’s creation. But the Sabbath also looks forward to the Millennium and the completion of God’s spiritual creation in man.
Let’s begin to understand the great meaning involved in keeping the seventh-day Sabbath.
1. On which day of creation week did God rest? Gen. 2:2-3; Ex. 20:11. Did God rest because He was tired from all the work He had done during the previous six days? Isa. 40:28.
COMMENT: God is composed of spirit and never becomes tired, as physical human beings do. Therefore He had no reason to rest except that by resting, God “made” the Sabbath and set an example for humans to follow.
2. Who in the God Family made that very first Sabbath? Col. 1:13-16; Mark 2:27-28.
COMMENT: Jesus Christ is Lord of the Sabbath because He made it! As we have proved in our previous studies, He was the Lord of the Old Testament and the actual Creator of all things.
By ceasing to work on the seventh day of creation week, Christ set apart that 24-hour period and every seventh day afterward for a special and holy use. (The Sabbath begins at sunset, in the evening, at the close of the sixth day, and ends at sunset, in the evening, at the close of the seventh day. See Leviticus 23:32 for an example of when God begins and ends days.)
3. For whom did Jesus say the Sabbath was made? Mark 2:27. Who would that include? Exodus 20:8-10, especially verse 10.
COMMENT: “The Sabbath was made for man,” declared Jesus. Every seventh day from creation was set apart by God as time to be specially observed by mankind. The Sabbath was to benefit all who would ever live, if they kept it as God intended.
4. How did Christ intend the Sabbath to benefit mankind? Deut. 5:14. (Notice the word rest.)
COMMENT: The word Sabbath means “rest” in Hebrew, the language in which the Old Testament was written. Physical rest and mental relaxation after a busy week are obvious reasons for keeping the Sabbath. God knew humans would need periodic rest and change from work.
But the purpose for keeping God’s Sabbath goes far beyond merely resting on it. The seventh-day Sabbath has to do with God’s great purpose for creating mankind!
Man desperately needs this time each week in which to have close spiritual contact with God. The Sabbath gives us time to think more about God, to pray to Him, to worship Him (both in private and in fellowship with others) and to study the Bible to understand more about God’s awesome purpose for our lives and how to achieve it.
5. Was the observance of the Sabbath day to be a special sign of identification between God and His people? Ex. 31:13, 16-17. Did God also make Sabbath observance a separate covenant with His people? Verse 16. Was it to be a perpetual covenant, binding forever? Verses 16-17.
COMMENT: SO that the ancient Israelites would especially remember that the eternal God is Creator, Sustainer and Supreme Ruler over all His creation, God singled out Sabbath observance as the one great sign by which they would always be reminded that He is the Creator, and that they were His chosen people. It was the one commandment that would make Israel especially stand out from all other nations.
So God doubly commanded Sabbath observance by making it a separate covenant, or agreement, with His people Israel. (The Sabbath was already one of the Ten Commandments God had given them earlier.) It was to be an everlasting covenant — a sign that would identify the people of God of all generations, including “spiritual Israel” today — Spirit-begotten members of God’s New Testament Church. Notice further:
6. Does the Bible plainly reveal that a real Christian is one who has become a spiritual Israelite — one of Abraham’s “seed” through Jesus Christ? Gal. 3:28-29; Rom. 4:16.
COMMENT: God made the special Sabbath covenant with Abraham’s physical descendants. It was to be obeyed throughout their generations. Today, all Spirit-begotten Christians have become Abraham’s spiritual descendants and therefore keep the Sabbath!
The Sabbath is a reminder of our Creator, who not only created the universe, but who is also creating His holy, righteous character in Spirit-begotten Christians — character that will endure forever when they are born into His divine Family! Thus the Sabbath reminds us every week of the Creator God and His wonderful purpose for mankind.
7. Did Jesus Christ keep the Sabbath? Luke 4:16, 31.
COMMENT: Jesus regularly attended religious services on the Sabbath day. He obeyed His own command to meet for worship services every Sabbath (Lev. 23:3). This is the day He would naturally observe, because He is the One who made the Sabbath and ordained that it be kept holy!
8. Was it also the Apostle Paul’s custom to keep the Sabbath? Acts 17:1-2. Is there other evidence that the early New Testament Church observed the Sabbath? Acts 13:13-16, 42, 44; 18:1, 4.
COMMENT: There is no question that the early New Testament Church of God observed the seventh-day Sabbath. Those who are striving to obey God today will also be keeping the same day Jesus, Paul and the entire early Church kept.
9. What is God’s warning to us in Hebrews 3:8-12, 17-19? (Notice the word rest in verses 11 and 18.) Was rebellion, especially Sabbath breaking, the reason God did not allow an entire generation of Israelites to enter His “rest”? Ezek. 20:12-13, 15-16.
COMMENT: The land of Canaan — the promised “rest” Israel finally entered (Josh. 1:13) — is referred to in the Bible as a type of the Christian’s spiritual “rest” — of being born into the Kingdom or Family of God and living forever.
10. If we believe and obey God, will we enter God’s “rest” — eternal life in His Kingdom? Hebrews 4:3, first nine words, and verse 11.
COMMENT: The equation is clear: Belief in God equals active obedience. Those who really believe God will be keeping His Sabbath!
God’s Sabbath should not be treated lightly or forgotten. We are commanded to “Remember the Sabbath day” (Ex. 20:8) because it is a memorial of God’s restoration of the earth and the creation of man. And the Sabbath pictures the coming eternal “rest” that true Christians will enter when born into the Family of God as spirit-composed children of God. They will then be free of all the physical weaknesses and limitations of this mortal life.
11. Did God command the entire nation of Israel to meet together (a “convocation”) on the weekly Sabbath? Lev. 23:3. What are New Testament Christians admonished regarding the assembling of themselves? Heb. 10:25.
COMMENT: God’s people today attend weekly Sabbath services of the Worldwide Church of God in more than 50 nations around the world. Every Sabbath, they meet together to receive spiritual instruction from the Bible, taught by the ministry of God’s Church (Eph. 4:11-13).
God’s people rejoice in His Sabbath and enjoy fellowshipping with each other on this day. They are learning what a great blessing it is to keep God’s Sabbath holy — the day that reminds us of the Creator God and His stupendous purpose for mankind!
Most Bible commentators and scholars agree that the many passing references to God’s annual festivals in the New Testament indicate that their observance in the early Church was known, accepted — even taken for granted. More importantly, Christ and the Church of God customarily kept the annual festivals: “In the early Christian church the propriety of celebrating the festivals together with the whole of the Jewish people was never questioned, so that it needed no special mention” (The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 1, p. 628).
However, it is obvious from a study of the New Testament that God’s annual festivals took on a new significance in the apostolic Church of God. Jesus’ teaching and example gave new understanding about the meaning of these days and how they are to be observed.
Notice what The Encyclopaedia Britannica says about the early New Testament Church of God keeping the biblical festivals in a new and different way: “The sanctity of special times [such as Easter and Christmas] was an idea absent from the minds of the first Christians… [who] continued to observe the Jewish festivals [of Leviticus 23], though in a new spirit, as commemorations of events which those festivals had foreshadowed” (vol. 8, p. 828, 11th edition, emphasis ours).
1. Who does the Bible say originated these annual festivals, besides the weekly festival of the Sabbath? Lev. 23:1-4. Did God specifically state that His annual feasts were to be observed in addition to the weekly Sabbath? Verses 37-38.
COMMENT: Notice that these are not the “feasts of the Jews” or “feasts of Moses,” as some have thought. They are God’s own feasts, which God instituted and gave to His people to keep annually.
2. What is the first festival to be observed each year? Lev. 23:5. When did God institute the first Passover? Read and summarize Exodus 12:1-14, 21-27.
COMMENT: The Passover, the first of God’s commanded annual festivals, pictures the beginning — the very first step — in God’s great Master Plan of salvation for mankind.
The Passover was to be a yearly reminder of God’s intervention in delivering the Israelites’ firstborn from death. It also pictured, in advance, the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ, “our Passover” lamb (I Cor. 5:7; I Pet. 1:18-19), for the sins of mankind. The sparing of the Israelites’ firstborn from the death angel through the shed blood of lambs on that first Passover is a symbolic type of our being spared today from the eternal penalty of sin (Rom. 6:23) through Christ’s sacrifice.
After Jesus’ death, the Passover, celebrated with the new symbols of unleavened bread and wine, became a yearly memorial of His sacrifice, for Jesus became the reality that the Passover lamb had foreshadowed.
3. Did God command, before Sinai, that the Passover be kept forever? Ex. 12:14, 24. Did Jesus Christ observe the Passover? John 2:13, 23.
COMMENT: Jesus kept the annual festivals. He, as the God of the Old Testament, was the One who originally gave them to Israel!
4. Did Jesus institute the New Testament Passover, with His 12 disciples present, on the night before He was crucified? Matt. 26:17-20. What was one new command He gave them regarding the observance of the Passover? John 13:1-5, 14-15.
5. Did Peter, at first, refuse to allow Jesus to wash his feet? Verses 6-8. Could Peter have any relationship with Jesus unless he allowed Him to wash his feet? Verse 8. Why did Jesus institute this new observance of foot washing during His last Passover meal? Verses 12-16.
COMMENT: Open-toed sandals were the customary footwear of Jesus’ time, and so the feet would become dusty. Foot washing, upon entering a home, was a menial task that only servants performed.
By washing their feet, Jesus was illustrating to His disciples that He had come to earth to serve mankind. Shortly afterward, He proved the extent of His extreme service to this world when He gave His very life for the sins of all mankind. Foot washing depicts the attitude of humility and service to others that Christ desires every Christian to have.
6. Did Jesus plainly command His disciples to wash one another’s feet? John 13:14-15. Were they to teach the world to do likewise? Matt. 28:19-20. Are those who obey Christ’s words by participating in this meaningful ceremony promised a special blessing? John 13:17; 14:23.
7. What completely new way of observing the Passover did Jesus institute shortly before His death? Matt. 26:26-29. What command did He give the disciples regarding this new manner of keeping the Passover? Luke 22:19-20. Were they to teach this to the world? Matt. 28:19-20.
COMMENT: Jesus did not abolish the Passover — He merely changed the symbols used. Instead of annually shedding the blood of a lamb and eating its roasted body, we are now to use unleavened bread and wine.
The New Testament Passover is to be kept as an annual memorial of Christ’s death. It reaffirms year by year “till he come” (I Cor. 11:26) the true Christian’s faith in the blood of “Christ our Passover” (I Cor. 5:7) for the remission of sins, as symbolized by the drinking of wine.
Eating the broken bread symbolizes our faith in the body of Christ, broken open for our physical healing. Jesus Christ allowed His body to be ripped open in dozens of places by scourging until He could not even be recognized! He suffered this torture so we, through faith in His broken body for us, may have the forgiveness of our physical sins — the healing of our bodies when we are sick (Isa. 53:5; I Pet. 2:24; Ps. 103:2-3; Jas. 5:14-15) — in addition to the forgiveness of our spiritual sins through His shed blood. And so the broken unleavened bread is a reminder to us that it is by “his stripes we are healed.”
As Christ Himself commanded, true Christians today observe the Passover on the eve of the day of His suffering and death — on the 14th day of the first month of God’s calendar, in the evening, after the beginning of the day.
(The exact date for the Passover, and all of God’s annual festivals, varies from year to year according to the Roman calendar. The correct dates for all the festivals over the next several years are listed in God’s Sacred Calendar, which you may request by sending in the literature request coupon included with this lesson.)
8. Did the Apostle Paul teach New Testament Christians to keep the Passover by partaking of the new symbols of unleavened bread and wine, as Jesus had done and commanded? I Cor. 5:7-8; 11:23-26.
COMMENT: The Church Jesus built kept the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread — not Easter. (“Easter” in Acts 12:4 in the King James Version is a flagrant mistranslation of the Greek word pascha. It should be rendered “Passover,” as it is in all modern translations.)
9. Will the Passover be kept by Christ and others after He establishes the Kingdom of God on earth? Matt. 26:29; Luke 22:15-16. In the meantime, was the Passover to be kept as a memorial of Christ’s death? Review I Corinthians 11:25-26.
COMMENT: Jesus commanded His disciples to keep the Passover in remembrance of Him until He returns. The apostles did keep it, and today, God’s true Church still keeps the Passover!
Feast of Unleavened Bread
The Passover, the first of God’s commanded annual festivals, pictures the beginning, the very first step, in God’s great Master Plan of salvation for mankind. It was Jesus Christ, “our Passover” (I Cor. 5:7), who suffered and died for our sins. But accepting Christ’s sacrifice to pay for our sins is not enough.
Once we have repented of our sins and been forgiven by God, we must strive to forsake sin completely. We must come out of this world’s ways of sin (Rev. 18:4) — just as Israel left Egypt, a type of sin (Heb. 11:25-26). We must be striving to put all sin away from us. That is our part in God’s Master Plan.
To help keep us in the knowledge of the second step in God’s plan, Christ gave His Church the second annual feast. The observance of this feast impresses upon us that we must strive not to return to the sins Jesus paid for with His shed blood. Let’s understand.
1. What feast did God command the Israelites to keep immediately after the Passover? Ex. 12:17; Lev. 23:6. Were they to keep it just this one time? Ex. 12:17; 13:10.
COMMENT: Notice that the Feast of Unleavened Bread was given by God before the people reached Mt. Sinai — before they even left the land of Egypt. It is also to be kept by all their succeeding generations — forever!
2. For how many days is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to continue? Ex. 12:15; 34:18; Num. 28:16-17; Deut. 16:3-4. Were the first and seventh days set apart as Holy Days — days on which the people were to assemble themselves, much the same as they would on a weekly Sabbath day? Ex. 12:16; Lev. 23:3, 7-8.
COMMENT: The first month of the Hebrew calendar, which God inspired the Jews to preserve for New Testament Christians, was called Abib or, later, Nisan. It falls sometime during the months of March and April of the Roman calendar today. The Feast of Unleavened Bread begins on the 15th of Abib, the day after the Passover. It continues for seven days until the 21st of Abib. Both the 15th and the 21st are special Sabbaths — annual “holy convocations” — days of rest and worship of God.
At this point it would be well to distinguish between God’s annual festivals or feasts, and His annual Holy Days or Sabbaths. God’s Master Plan includes seven annual festivals. Two of these, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Tabernacles, are seven days long. There are also seven annual Holy Days, which are Sabbaths of rest from regular work. Each of these Holy Days occurs on, or during, a festival (the Feast of Unleavened Bread has two). But the Passover, the first of the festivals, is not a Holy Day or Sabbath. (See chart below.)
GOD’S ANNUAL FESTIVALS (LEV. 23)
FEAST | FEAST | FEAST | FEAST | FEAST | FEAST |FEAST |
| | | | | | |
| | (7 DAYS) | | | | (7 DAYS) |GREAT |
| | | | | | | |
| |1ST | |LAST| | | |1ST | | |
| |DAY | |DAY | | | |DAY | | |
|HOLY| |HOLY| HOLY | HOLY | HOLY |HOLY| | HOLY |
|DAY | |DAY | DAY | DAY | DAY |DAY | | DAY |
3. Were the Israelites to put all leaven and leavened food out of their homes and property, and keep it out during the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread? Ex. 12:15-19; 13:7.
COMMENT: A leavening agent is any substance used to cause dough to rise by fermentation. Yeast, baking soda and baking powder are leavening agents.
4. Is leaven clearly a symbol for sin? Matt. 16:6, 11-12; Luke 12:1; I Cor. 5:8.
COMMENT: Leaven is often referred to in the Bible as a type of sin. Leaven puffs up — and so does sin. Unleavened bread is a flat bread that contains no leavening agent, and therefore typifies the absence of sin. And since seven is God’s special number signifying completion and perfection, the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread remind us that God wants His people to strive to put sin completely out of their lives.
5. Does God specifically command His people to eat unleavened bread during this festival? Ex. 12:15, 19-20; Lev. 23:6.
COMMENT: The Israelites were not merely to remove all leavening and leavened foods from their property. That would have only symbolized putting away sin. They were commanded to eat unleavened bread during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This act of eating unleavened bread symbolizes the opposite of sin — active obedience to God!
6. Upon repentance and baptism, Christ’s sacrifice blots out all of one’s past sins. When Paul asked if we should continue in sin, what did he answer? Rom. 6:15-16. What was his apostolic command? Verses 11-13.
COMMENT: Christ died so that we would not have to pay the penalty of eternal death (Rom. 6:23). After repentance and baptism, God expects us to strive to obey His Law — to “unleaven” our lives. God does not want us to continue in sin, for Christ is not the minister of sin (Gal. 2:17).
7. Did Paul, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, say New Testament Christians should keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread? I Cor. 5:8.
8. What did Paul say that clearly shows the Church of God at Corinth was, at the time he wrote, keeping the Feast of Unleavened Bread? Verse 7. Notice the words “as ye are unleavened.”
COMMENT: The Apostle Paul was telling the Corinthian church members to put out spiritual leaven, just as they had already put out all physical leaven in preparation for this festival. They were to keep the Feast not only with unleavened bread, but also with the spiritually “unleavened” attitude of sincerity and truth.
9. Does God want Christians to forsake this world’s way of sin? Rev. 18:4. Are we to continually strive — to expend effort and energy — to put sin out of our lives as it crops up? Heb. 12:1, 4.
COMMENT: If we are to become Spirit-born members of God’s Family, we must prove that we will obey God here and now by striving to get the spiritual leaven of sin out of our lives and keep it out! This is our part in God’s great Master Plan.
Hence, every spring the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread specially reminds Spirit-begotten Christians of their continual need to keep God’s commandments. It is a time when they symbolically renew their resolve to live in harmony with God’s Law — to rededicate their lives to continual spiritual growth and overcoming.
Pentecost — Feast of Firstfruits
God knows that to successfully put sin out of our lives and keep it out, our own human willpower and abilities are not enough. We need the spiritual power of God’s Holy Spirit to help us keep God’s spiritual Law.
This is the third step in God’s Master Plan, pictured by the third annual festival, the day of Pentecost, also called the Feast of Weeks or Feast of Firstfruits.
1. What were God’s instructions regarding this festival? Lev. 23:15-17, 20. Was this feast a Holy Day, or Sabbath of rest, on which the people were to assemble? Verse 21. Was it to be kept by God’s people every year forever? Same verse.
COMMENT: At this point we need to understand the symbolism of a ceremony associated with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and how it ties in with the third annual festival. The meaning of this ceremony is important, although it no longer occurs since the Romans destroyed the Temple in A.D. 70.
2. What kind of offering had to be presented to God before the spring harvest could begin? Verses 9-11, 14.
COMMENT: As explained in the introduction of this lesson, God established His festivals in conjunction with the two annual agricultural harvests in the land of Palestine. God uses these harvests as a pattern for the two spiritual “harvests” of His great Master Plan.
The physical harvests help us understand that God is not dealing with the vast majority of the world today. God is calling only a very few into His Church before Christ’s Second Coming. God intends the spring festivals to illustrate to His Church yearly that His Spirit-begotten children are the “firstfruits” of salvation (Jas. 1:18) — the relatively small beginning of His spiritual harvest of mankind into His divine Family.
The spring harvest began in the following manner: On the morning of the first day of the week (Sunday) during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a sheaf of newly cut barley, cut the night before, was prepared and brought to the priest, who waved it in the air to be accepted by God. This was called the “wavesheaf offering” and represented the first of the firstfruits harvest.
Once the wavesheaf was offered, the harvest could begin. The spring harvest ended by the time of the Feast of Firstfruits, 50 days later. (The New Testament name for this festival, Pentecost, literally means “fiftieth [day].”) The people gathered on this annual Sabbath to give God thanks for the firstfruits of the year’s crops He had given them. Now let’s see the interesting connection between the wavesheaf offering and, Jesus Christ.
3. Who was the first to be resurrected from the dead into God’s Family? Acts 26:23. Was He therefore the first of the firstfruits of God’s spiritual harvest? I Cor. 15:20, 23; Col. 1:18. Therefore, are Spirit-begotten Christians clearly the firstfruits of God’s great Master Plan? Jas. 1:18; Rom. 8:23.
4. After Christ was resurrected from the dead, did He have to ascend to His Father in heaven? John 20:17. On that same day after returning from heaven, could His disciples then touch Him? Compare Matthew 28:9 with John 20:19-20, 27-28.
COMMENT: This was the first day of the week (Sunday) during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It was on the very same morning that the wavesheaf was offered that Jesus Christ was accepted by His Father as the spiritual “wavesheaf” offering in heaven!
Christ therefore fulfilled the symbolism of the Old Testament wavesheaf offering. He was the first resurrected Son of God — the first harvested product of God’s Master Plan. He became the firstborn Son of God — the first human to complete the process of salvation and be “born again.”
But Jesus could not have become the captain of our salvation and our elder brother without possessing an all-important ingredient from God — something we all must have if we are to be born again as He was.
5. Could Jesus do any spiritual works, including obedience to God, with just His human strength? John 5:30; 8:28. Where did He get the necessary power? John 14:10, last part.
COMMENT: The Father “dwelt” in Jesus through the Holy Spirit!
6. Did Christ promise the same spiritual help to His disciples? John 14:16. What is the “Comforter”? Verse 26.
7. On what day did the disciples actually receive God’s Holy Spirit? Acts 2:1-4. Did they thus become members of God’s spiritual Church? I Cor. 12:12-14.
COMMENT: Fifty days after Christ was accepted in heaven, the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples just as Jesus had promised. It was on the day of Pentecost that God sent His Spirit to begin His Church — to beget and strengthen the firstfruits He was beginning to call into His Church, symbolically represented by the two “wave loaves” mentioned in Leviticus 23:17, 20.
The New Testament festival of Pentecost is now a memorial that commemorates the founding of the New Testament Church of God through the receiving of the Holy Spirit. It was on the day of Pentecost in A.D. 31 that the initial firstfruits of God’s spiritual harvest began to be prepared by His Spirit for “reaping” into God’s divine Family.
But the firstfruits cannot be reaped into God’s Family unless they are “born again” (John 3:38) — resurrected and changed into spirit. That will not occur until Jesus Christ comes again, which brings us to the fourth step in God’s Master Plan.
The Feast of Trumpets portrays a pivotal event in God’s plan. This festival not only pictures the coming of Christ to resurrect and change the firstfruits, it also pictures the terrible time of world war just ahead and the intervention of Jesus Christ to save humanity from total annihilation, as well as to establish the Kingdom of God on earth.
Let’s understand exactly how this festival fits into God’s great Master Plan.
1. When is the fourth annual festival to be observed? Lev. 23:23-25. Is this another annual Sabbath of rest from one’s regular work? Verses 24-25. Are God’s people commanded to meet together before Him on this Holy Day? Verse 24.
COMMENT: The number seven in God’s plan signifies completion and perfection. The seventh month of God’s calendar contains the final four festivals, picturing the completion of God’s Master Plan for mankind. The festival that occurs on the first day of this month marks the beginning of the final events in God’s plan.
COMMENT: It is from this ceremony that the Feast of Trumpets draws its name. There is a great deal of symbolic meaning tied in with the blowing of these trumpets — especially with regard to the end time in which we’re living.
Trumpets were blown to announce God’s festivals, as well as to call God’s people to assembly. Trumpets were also used as an alarm of invading armies and impending warfare. This terrifying sound filled the people of ancient Israel with fear, because they knew the horror of war was imminent! It is this warning of war that sets apart the Feast of Trumpets from God’s other festivals.
3. When did Jesus say that God’s coming Kingdom would be established — wouldn’t it be in a time of world war? Matt. 24:3, 6-8; Luke 21:31. Would man then have the power to destroy all human life from the face of the earth? Matt. 24:21-22.
COMMENT: The seventh seal that covered the scroll (Rev. 5:1), when opened, disclosed seven angels with seven trumpets representing seven consecutive colossal world events. These are to be physical punishments from God to warn the nations not to go further into national and personal sins.
The last three trumpet plagues (also called “woes”) specifically picture three phases of catastrophic world war. At the third, mankind will be saved from extinction by the Second Coming of Jesus Christ!
5. Will those who turn to God be protected from these trumpet plagues? Rev. 3:10; 7:2-3; 12:14. Is it for the sake of the “elect” that Christ will intervene in world affairs to cut short the time of great trouble and rescue mankind from nuclear annihilation? Matt. 24:22.
COMMENT: The elect of God are the firstfruits of His great Master Plan. They are the ones God has called out of this world to be the “firstfruits harvest” of the divine Family He is creating.
6. Did Jesus promise to send His angels to gather together His elect at the blast of a great trumpet? Verses 30-31. Is the sounding of this trumpet the time of the resurrection of the dead in Christ? I Thess. 4:16-17; I Cor. 15:51-52; Rev. 11:15-18. Is this trumpet the seventh and final one of the seven introduced in Revelation 8? I Cor. 15:52.
COMMENT: At the sound of the seventh trumpet, announcing the return of Jesus Christ, the firstfruits of God’s plan will be resurrected and changed — born as immortal spirit beings into the Family of God! God will then have reaped the smaller spiritual harvest of individuals into His Family. They will then begin to help Christ rule the earth (Rev. 20:6) and reap the much greater spiritual harvest during and after the Millennium. The last three festivals picture the details of how this will be accomplished.
Day at Atonement
What about Satan? What happens to him after Christ returns?
The fifth step in God’s Master Plan, the Day of Atonement, reveals the answer. It pictures Christ deposing Satan the devil from his present position as world ruler (II Cor. 4:4) and Satan’s removal to a place completely away from mankind. He will be bound for 1,000 years, no longer able to deceive the nations and influence man to sin.
After Satan’s imprisonment, the rest of humanity will be reconciled — made at one — with God. Let’s understand the meaning in the symbolism of this unique fifth festival of God.
2. How are we to observe the Day of Atonement? Verse 32. How does one “afflict” his body on this day? Isa. 58:3; Ezra 8:21.
COMMENT: The Day of Atonement is perhaps the most unusual Holy Day, as far as what God expects us to do. It is the one day of the year on which God commands us to fast — to abstain from food and water (Ex. 34:28; Esther 4:16) — for 24 hours, from sunset on the ninth day of the month to sunset on the tenth day (“from even[ing] unto even[ing]” — Lev. 23:32).
Fasting for spiritual reasons at any time of the year should be for the purpose of humbling ourselves — to draw closer to God and His righteous way (Isa. 58:6-11). Thus fasting on the Day of Atonement is a vivid reminder of the state of mind necessary for salvation — of humility, godly sorrow, earnestly seeking after God and His way — a condition to which this world will have been brought by the catastrophic events culminating in Jesus Christ’s return!
3. Does the Day of Atonement also differ from all other annual Holy Days in that no work of any kind is to be done on it? Num. 29:7; Lev. 16:29. Why is this day to be kept so solemnly? Lev. 23:28.
COMMENT: What does the word atonement mean? Webster says to atone means to “set at one.” To join in one — to form by uniting. This day actually symbolizes God and man being set at one: literally the Day of At-one-ment! But God and mankind cannot be fully at one — in full agreement — until Satan is restrained.
The 16th chapter of Leviticus details what God told the Levitical priesthood to do on the Day of Atonement. These rituals, although no longer performed, reveal another step in God’s plan to restore His government on earth and to bring saving knowledge to everyone.
4. Was the Aaronic high priest to make a special sin offering once a year to atone for all the sins of Israel? Lev. 16:32-34. Was this done on the Day of Atonement? Verses 29-30.
5. But before the high priest made this atonement, did he take two goats and then cast lots to determine who each would represent? Lev. 16:7-8. Was one to represent Christ, the LORD? Verse 8. Who was the other goat to represent? Same verse. Was he to be banished? Verse 10.
COMMENT: The English word “scapegoat” is not), a correct translation of the Hebrew word God inspired. Most Bibles with marginal renderings show that the original word was azazel. Azazel among the early desert dwellers in the Sinai referred to Satan the devil!
6. Was the goat representing Christ offered as a sin offering for all the people? Verses 15-16. Were the sins of the people symbolically placed on the head of the other goat, representing Satan, which was then taken into the wilderness? Verses 21-22.
COMMENT: Jesus Christ atoned for our sins when He took the penalty of our sins (death — Rom. 6:23) upon Himself by sacrificing His sinless life for us. But the real cause of those sins is Satan the devil (John 8:42-44). In this Levitical ritual, all of man’s Satan-inspired sins were symbolically put right back on Satan’s head where they belong!
When Jesus Christ returns, the blame for mankind’s sins will be placed squarely on Satan, who will then be removed from the presence of man. Notice the fulfillment of this part of God’s Master Plan as revealed by Jesus Christ in the book of Revelation:
7. What will be done to Satan after the Second Coming of Jesus Christ? Rev. 20:1-2. Where will he be cast? Verse 3. Also notice Revelation 18:1-2.
COMMENT: The “bottomless pit” or abyss was pictured by the desert wilderness where the azazel goat was banished. Satan and his demons will be completely restrained by Christ from further leading mankind into sin. No longer will Satan be able to broadcast (Eph. 2:2) his evil attitudes.
At the devil’s chaining by an angel of God (symbolically the “fit man” of Leviticus 16:21), the minds of men, formerly kept spiritually closed by Satan, will be opened by the Spirit of God!
For the first time, humanity will be able to understand God’s Master Plan of salvation. People will then begin to realize their wrong ways and desire to repent and receive forgiveness of their sins. Only then will man become at one with Christ and the Father, as pictured by the Day of At- one-ment!
Feast of Tabernacles
1. What God-ordained festival occurs only five days after the Day of Atonement? Lev. 23:34; Deut. 16:13-15.
2. Does this seven-day feast begin with a Holy Day on which all ordinary work is forbidden, and on which people are to gather before God? Lev. 23:35. Did God command that this annual festival be kept forever? Verse 41.
COMMENT: The Feast of Tabernacles was also called the Feast of Ingathering (Ex. 23:16; 34:22) because it celebrated the summer and early autumn harvest (Lev. 23:39).
3. What is the divinely set theme for the annual observance of the Feast of Tabernacles? Deut. 16:14-15. Does God say that good food should be eaten to increase one’s joy and happiness during this feast? Deut. 14:26.
COMMENT: The Feast of Tabernacles, picturing the sixth step in God’s Master Plan, is a time of great rejoicing! For ancient Israel, it was a time of rejoicing because the abundant winter’s store was taken in just before the Feast. But in the Millennium, which this feast pictures, the happiness, joy and prosperity portrayed by the Feast of Tabernacles will exist worldwide under the righteous rule of Jesus Christ. Universal adherence to God’s way of life will make the World Tomorrow a literal utopia!
4. Are God’s people to live in booths — temporary dwellings — during the Feast? Lev. 23:42.
COMMENT: A “tabernacle” or “booth” is a temporary dwelling. God commanded the ancient Israelites to live in temporary shelters made of tree branches (verse 40) while observing the Feast of Tabernacles. For God’s people who attend the Feast of Tabernacles today, a tent, camper, motel or hotel room would certainly qualify as a temporary dwelling.
God intends the Feast of Tabernacles to separate and free His people from the world. Living in temporary dwellings for an entire week — away from their everyday surroundings, jobs and most negative influences — God’s people enjoy a tiny foretaste of the universal freedom, joy and peace that will exist in the Millennium when Satan is gone and the Spirit of God is leading all of humanity (Joel 2:28, 32).
These are days of continuous, genuine Christian fellowship and just plain good fun! Tens of thousands of God’s people and their families gather at dozens of festival sites around the world. Christians at the Feast demonstrate now, by the way they live together in harmony, what today’s sin-filled, unhappy world will become like after Christ returns.
But just as the Feast of Tabernacles is a physical feast filled with rejoicing, it is also a spiritual feast of education and preparation. Members of God’s Church receive instruction from God’s ministers through inspiring sermons to help them further prepare to rule and teach with Christ during the Millennium.
5. After Jesus Christ subdues the warring nations at His return and establishes God’s government over the earth, will the nations begin to come to Him for instruction in God’s way of life? Mic. 4:1-2. Will the whole world finally come to understand God’s way to peace, happiness, abundant living and salvation? Isa. 11:9; Jer. 31:34.
COMMENT: Once Satan has been bound and the government of God set up, a 1,000-year golden age of world peace and prosperity will begin. Christ’s re-education program for the entire world will bring about a new civilization based on God’s way of life — His Law of love — resulting in great physical and spiritual blessings.
6. But what will happen to those nations that at first refuse to keep the Feast of Tabernacles and thus refuse to be re-educated to God’s way? Zech. 14:16-17. And if they still won’t obey? Verses 18-19.
COMMENT: Christ will re-educate the people of the world through His annual festivals. The world will come to know that God’s Master Plan pictures the way to physical blessings and spiritual salvation. Those who stubbornly refuse to keep the Feast of Tabernacles will suffer from drought and plagues until they submit to God.
7. Is there to be any end to the increase of God’s government? Isa. 9:7.
COMMENT: World population will increase rapidly in the Millennium. Eventually thousands of millions will be spiritually converted! The great “autumn harvest” of humans will be gathered into the Kingdom of God — born again as divine members of the ruling Family of God during the Millennium.
By the end of the thousand years, the great Family of God will be ready for the final step in God’s Master Plan. Even greater joy and accomplishments lie ahead after the Millennium!
The Last Great Day
What about all those who have lived and died without ever being called of God (including, perhaps, most of your loved ones today) — who never had an opportunity to know and really understand God’s purpose and plan for mankind? Are they lost forever?
The answer is revealed in the meaning of the Last Great Day — the seventh and last of God’s annual festivals — the festival that pictures the seventh and final step in God’s great Master Plan.
1. Is it God’s will that all who have ever lived come to the knowledge of His plan of salvation? II Pet. 3:9; I Tim. 2:4.
COMMENT: In His loving concern for all mankind, God has planned for everyone who has ever lived to receive an opportunity for salvation and Sonship in His Family, just as the already spiritually called and begotten children of God have been given their opportunity.
Just as the week is not complete without the seventh-day Sabbath, God’s Master Plan is not complete without His seventh and final annual festival.
The number seven in the Bible signifies completion and perfection. This seventh festival of God reveals the perfection of God’s great Master Plan — that God’s love and mercy toward mankind will extend beyond the Millennium.
2. Was there an eighth day of worship immediately following the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles? Lev. 23:36, 39.
COMMENT: The last annual Sabbath or Holy Day is observed immediately after the Feast of Tabernacles. But because of its close proximity to this seven-day Feast, it was associated with the Feast of Tabernacles and was called the “eighth day.” It came to be known among Christians as “the last day, that great day of the feast” (John 7:37). The Last Great Day is clearly a separate festival and Holy Day.
The Last Great Day pictures the completion of God’s Master Plan. That, as we learned in Lesson 21, is the Great White Throne Judgment period after the Millennium. Revelation 20:5 shows that a second resurrection will occur after the Millennium, and verses 11-12 reveal that those in this resurrection to mortal life, who died never having been called to participate in God’s plan of salvation, will then be given their opportunity to become members of God’s divine ruling Family.
These individuals will be given enough time to learn to obey God, just as Spirit-begotten Christians have opportunity to do today. Those who continue to live God’s way of life, developing the character of God, will be changed from mortality to immortality at the end of this period of judgment, which apparently will last 100 years (Isa. 65:20).
3. How did Jesus refer to this special “day” or period of judgment for these people who have yet to hear and understand the wonderful message of salvation? Matt. 11:20-24; 12:41-42.
COMMENT: Christ mentioned the people of Tyre and Sidon, Sodom, Nineveh in Jonah’s time and finally the Queen of the south. All of these examples of people who lived in different generations are compared to those of Jesus’ day, the vast majority of whom did not understand or believe Christ’s message. Jesus tells us that they all will be resurrected with the generation that lived during His time!
Jesus gave enough examples of people living at widespread times to prove that most of humanity will be alive at the same time on this earth. There will be pre-Flood men and women, all 12 tribes of Israel, those who lived during the Middle Ages and the vast majority living now. Even babies and children who died untimely deaths will be resurrected then. They will all rise in the second resurrection because they had not been called by God during their first life.
The ancient peoples Jesus mentioned in Matthew 11 and 12 would have repented if He had personally come to them in their day. And they will repent when resurrected and given access to the Holy Spirit after the Millennium.
Your Bible shows that the vast majority of those who ever lived will finally be born into God’s Family at the end of this coming period of judgment, pictured by the Last Great Day.
God’s Master Plan of salvation for mankind will then be complete.
Then the spirit-composed members of God’s great ruling Family can look forward to new heavens and a new earth — and to new and wonderful opportunities in ruling the universe under God our Father and Jesus Christ our elder brother!
Christ the Focus of God’s Holy Days
Through the years, God’s Church has grown in the understanding of the spiritual meaning of God’s Holy Days. Unlike the days commonly observed by traditional Christianity today, God’s days reveal His great purpose for mankind and how He is accomplishing it.
In this overview lesson, we learned that Christ, our Creator, is fashioning us into God’s spiritual character image to become members of His divine Kingdom, as pictured by the weekly Sabbath. We also learned that God’s annual festivals not only teach us His Master Plan of salvation, they point us directly to our Savior, Jesus Christ. He is “our Passover” (I Cor. 5:7). It is by “putting on” Christ that we put sin out of our lives (Rom. 13:13-14), as pictured by the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Christ is the first of the “firstfruits,” and it was 50 days after His resurrection that He sent the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit was sent to spiritually beget those whom the Father would call, thus enabling them to obey His Law, successfully overcome sin in their lives and grow spiritually.
Christ will return to earth to intervene in world affairs (pictured by the Feast of Trumpets), resurrect His firstfruits, and rule as King of kings and Lord of lords, putting down the despotic rule of Satan, the archdeceiver, as portrayed by the Day of Atonement. With the influence of the devil and his demons gone, all mankind will have the opportunity to become “at one” with Christ through repentance, baptism and the receipt of God’s Spirit.
Christ is coming to set up the government of God on earth, making it a veritable utopia — pictured by the Feast of Tabernacles. Thousands of millions will be Spirit-begotten and born into the Family of God during the Millennium.
Finally, Christ will make salvation available to everyone who ever lived, but never heard or understood the truth, in the last great step in God’s plan — the Last Great Day, picturing the last judgment period.
God’s Church understands and teaches the precious truth concerning His purpose and plan for mankind. Around the world, Spirit-begotten children of God faithfully observe His weekly Sabbath and annual Holy Days every year! * * * * *
Remember that with the next lesson we will begin our expanded study of each of God’s Holy Days. Lesson 24 will cover the seventh-day Sabbath in-depth. Not only will the points brought out in this lesson’s brief study of the weekly Sabbath be covered in greater detail, we will also answer questions such as: How is the Sabbath a special “test” commandment? Has time been “lost”? Did God change the seventh-day Sabbath to another day? How can we make God’s weekly Sabbath a spiritual blessing and delight?
This multiple choice test is designed to help you review the preceding lesson. It’s an enjoyable way of putting to use some of the vital knowledge and understanding you have gained through this lesson.
Select one of the four choices given under each question or incomplete statement. The other three are incorrect — unless stated or indicated otherwise.
Take sufficient time to understand each question or statement, as well as the choices. Try to do as many as you can without referring to the lesson. If you have difficulty deciding on the correct answer, then review the part of the lesson in question.
1. God gave His people weekly and annual Sabbaths that A. no longer have meaning or purpose. B. were patterned after pagan festivals. C. are reminders of His purpose and plan for bringing mortal humans into His divine Family. D. are not to be observed by true Christians today.
2. Which statement is FALSE? A. The land called Canaan in ancient times produces abundant harvests throughout the year. B. The spring grain harvest in the modern state of Israel is the smaller of the two annual harvest seasons. C. God’s festivals during the spring harvest season picture the relatively small beginning of God’s spiritual harvest of humans into His Family. D. The festivals that occur near the conclusion of the late summer-early autumn harvest season picture God calling the vast majority of mankind to salvation.
3. The “oracles” — the Old Testament Scriptures, which include knowledge of God’s Sabbaths and festivals and God’s calendar — were given to ancient Israel and preserved by the tribe of Judah A. until the coming of Christ, who did away with the Law. B. because they were only for the Jews. C. to help the Jews earn salvation. D. for God’s New Testament Spirit-begotten Church.
4. After renewing the face of the earth in six days, God (the Word, who became Jesus Christ) rested on the seventh day A. because He was tired from all His work. B. to set an example for humans to follow. C. — known today as Sunday. D. — known today as Friday.
5. If we keep the Sabbath as God intends, it A. gives us extra time to learn more about God and His awesome purpose for our lives. B. is a sign reminding us that He is the Creator and we are His chosen people. C. is a type of our future spiritual “rest” as Spirit-born members of God’s divine Kingdom or Family. D. All of the above.
6. Since God’s Spirit-begotten children — true Christians — have become Abraham’s spiritual descendants, they A. keep God’s weekly Sabbath — Saturday, the seventh day of the week. B. keep every day of the week “holy.” C. no longer need to keep any day. D. keep Sunday, the first day of the week.
7. The New Testament references to God’s annual festivals indicate that the Church Jesus Christ founded A. knew it was no longer necessary to observe these festivals. B. observed God’s festivals, just as Christ had done and commanded His chosen people to do. C. observed these festivals only in Judea. D. celebrated Easter and Christmas.
8. Which statement about the first of God’s seven annual festivals is FALSE? The Passover A. was originally a yearly reminder of God’s deliverance of Israel’s firstborn from death. B. pictured, in advance, the sacrifice of Christ for the sins of mankind. C. was to be kept forever and is now an annual memorial of Christ’s suffering and death. D. commemorates Christ’s resurrection.
9. Shortly before His crucifixion, Jesus A. instituted the sacrament of communion, and told His disciples to observe it every Sunday morning. B. changed the Passover symbols to unleavened bread and wine. C. told His disciples to commemorate His birth and resurrection. D. explained to His disciples that His death would do away with the annual festivals.
10. Which statement about the New Testament Passover is FALSE? A. The new symbols Jesus gave on the eve of His death were for the apostles only. B. Foot washing, which Jesus instituted before taking the bread and wine, depicts the attitude of humility and service every true Christian should have. C. Eating the unleavened bread symbolizes our faith in the body or Christ, which was broken open for our physical healing. D. Drinking the wine symbolizes our faith in the fact that Christ’s blood was shed for the forgiveness of our sins.
11. The Feast of Unleavened Bread, the second of God’s annual festivals, A. was replaced by Lent through the authority of the apostles. B. shows that accepting Christ’s sacrifice to pay for our sins is all that God requires of us. C. reminds us that God wants Christians to be striving to put sin completely out of their lives. D. lasts for eight days.
12. Leaven is a symbol for sin. Therefore A. leaven should never be eaten. B. unleavened bread typifies the presence of sin. C. the Feast of Unleavened Bread shows that God does not want us to “unleaven” our lives spiritually. D. the act of eating unleavened bread during the Feast of Unleavened Bread symbolizes the opposite of sin — righteousness, which is active obedience to God.
13. Pentecost, the third annual festival and Holy Day, A. reminds us that we need the power of God’s Spirit to overcome sin. B. reminds us that human willpower alone is enough to overcome sin. C. should be observed as a special day for baptisms and confirmations. D. is observed correctly by those churches named after this day.
14. “Pentecost,” the New Testament name for the Old Testament “Feast of Firstfruits,” A. was observed 50 days after the spring grain harvest began. B. is a memorial of the coming of God’s Spirit to beget and strengthen the “firstfruits” of God’s Master Plan. C. commemorates the beginning of the New Testament Church of God in A.D. 3l. D. All of the above.
15. The festival picturing the fourth step in God’s Master Plan A. marks the completion of events involving the Church. 8. has nothing to do with Christ’s return to earth. C. is the Feast of Trumpets. D. is no longer to be observed today.
16. The fourth of God’s annual festivals A. has no meaning for God’s Church today. B. pictures the return of Jesus Christ to save humanity from total annihilation. C. is a musical festival with little spiritual meaning. D. pictures Christ coming to “rapture” away His saints.
17. The Feast of Trumpets also pictures the A. terrible time of world war just before Christ’s return. B. resurrection of the “firstfruits,” who will be reaped into God’s Family. C. first resurrection. D. All of the above.
18. After Christ returns, He will A. begin to qualify to replace Satan. B. depose Satan from being world ruler and restrain him from influencing mankind for 1,000 years. C. allow Satan to rule for another l,000 years. D. allow Satan to continue broadcasting his evil attitudes to mankind.
19. Fasting on the Day of Atonement A. means to abstain from meat but not other foods or water for 24 hours. B. has no connection with becoming at one with God. C. is for the purpose of humbling oneself to draw closer to God. D. is not a vivid reminder or the state of mind necessary for salvation.
20. The symbolism surrounding the azazel goat of Leviticus 16 pictures A. all sin being blamed on Christ. B. the blame for mankind’s sins being placed on Satan, who inspired them. C. mankind’s sins never being forgiven. D. Satan and his demons being released to further lead mankind into sin.
21. After Christ has returned to earth and put Satan away, He will A. begin the 1,000-year reign of the Kingdom of God on earth. B. return to heaven and let men solve their own problems. C. return to heaven with His saints, leaving the earth desolate for 1,000 years. D. abolish God’s annual Holy Days.
22. During the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles, God’s people A. are to live in temporary accommodations such as motel and hotel rooms. B. rejoice greatly, thus picturing the universal happiness and joy that will exist during the Millennium. C. receive instruction from God’s Word to help them further prepare to rule and teach in the Millennium. D. All of the above.
23. The Last Great Day, the festival immediately following the Feast of Tabernacles, A. pictures the Great White Throne Judgment period, when all who were not yet called by God will be given their opportunity for salvation. B. has no connection with the second resurrection. C. shows how unfair God really is. D. shows that today is indeed the only “day” of salvation.
24. God’s Master Plan for the salvation of all mankind will A. never be complete. B. be complete at Christ’s return. C. be complete after the period of judgment pictured by the Last Great Day. D. is now complete.
25. God’s Holy Days A. point us directly to our Savior, Jesus Christ. B. reveal His great purpose for mankind and how He is accomplishing it. C. are faithfully kept by true Christians. D. All of the above.
ANSWERS TO LESSON 23 TEST
1-C, 2-A, 3-D, 4-B, 5-D, 6-A, 7-B, 8-D, 9-B, 10-A, 11-C, 12-D, 13-A, 14-D, 15-C, 16-B, 17-D, 18-B, 19-C, 20-B, 21-A, 22-D, 23-A, 24-C, 25-D]]>
IS GOD’S CHURCH COMPOSED OF MANY SEPARATE ‘GROUPS’?
There are many individual and separate ‘Groups’ differing in belief and organization, yet supposing they are a PART of the BODY OF CHRIST. Are they?
by Herbert W. Armstrong page 3 Good News (and Worldwide News) December 18, 1978
I HAVE HEARD many small religious groups, usually following one human leader, speak of “our Group,” fully believing that their little unit or assemblage is A PART of the BODY OF CHRIST, THE CHURCH OF GOD.
Some have left God’s Church saying, “I have not left Christ – I’ve only left that organization. I worship Christ in my own way.”
Are they really IN Christ?
Time is now short. We are in the very last days! Christ is coming soon – to MARRY God’s Church. In Revelation 19:7 the Church is called “His WIFE.” This verse says, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and HIS WIFE hath made herself ready.”
We are in sobering times – the last days when “HIS WIFE” must be MADE READY for Christ’s coming.
Will these “loner” individual “Christians,” or these many little isolated “GROUPS” constitute part of the wife made ready?
In Matthew 25 it is written, “… the bridegroom came: and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut” (Matthew 25:10).
The very eternal LIFE AND DEATH QUESTION right now is: “Just WHAT is the wife that has made herself ready? Is it one united, organized, compacted, Spiritual organism – all speaking the same thing – all joined to the one Vine and bearing fruit – all in the organized Church built upon the FOUNDATION of the apostles and the prophets, with Jesus Christ the chief cornerstone, having grown into a BUILDING – a Holy TEMPLE, in the Lord, fitly FRAMED TOGETHER and compacted in that which every joint supplieth OR, will it be a conglomeration of disunited “GROUPS” and denominations and a number of isolated individual “Christians,” who have followed Christ in their own way?
Those who have gone off, either alone or in a small isolated group, will say: “We have not gone away from CHRIST – We have only left that organization. We no longer have a part in what it is doing, but we worship Christ in our own way.”
They might refer to Mark 9:38-40: “And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out demons in thy name, and he followeth not with us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part.”
Notice, these people were performing miracles in Christ’s name – by His authority – Jesus did not say they shall enter God’s Kingdom. He merely said, “Let them alone.” Now put this together with other scriptures on the same theme. Again Jesus said, “Let them alone,” in Matthew 15:14. But He also said (verse 13), “… Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”
And again, Jesus said, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad” (Matthew 12:30).
Again, “He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth” (Luke 11:23). Those not WITH Christ, WHERE HE LEADS IN HIS CHURCH, are scattering and against Him.
But consider FURTHER:
Body of Christ is united
Jesus Christ is going to marry GOD’S CHURCH – called THE BODY OF CHRIST. Now is that Body united, organized on a united and firm FOUNDATION, or an assortment of “loner” individuals and various “groups”?
I was awakened this morning thinking on this sober question. Often it seems God puts things in my mind on first awakening in the morning.
This morning God was leading my mind in thinking about the BODY OF CHRIST, which is the one and only TRUE Church of God.
WHY is the Church called “the BODY of Christ”? God the Father sent Jesus into this world with a MESSAGE from GOD. That message concerned the now soon-coming KINGDOM OF GOD. Jesus taught it to His original apostles – He proclaimed it in the synagogues and in public. Jesus said, “I can of mine own self do nothing…” (John 5:30). But “… the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works” (John 14:10).
Jesus came to DO SOMETHING! Every one God has ever called since Adam has been called for a DUTY – to DO SOMETHING – and that something always has had to do with PREPARING FOR GOD’S KINGDOM.
Jesus taught the KINGDOM OF GOD. It was the Holy Spirit IN Him that did “the works.” After He had finished the work the Father had assigned Him, personally, to do in His human life, He was crucified, resurrected and then ascended into heaven. Then He sent the SAME HOLY SPIRIT that had worked in Him, to work in His apostles and in His Church.
The Holy Spirit had WORKED in Jesus’ body. Now it worked in the collective BODY of the Church. Therefore the Church now became the BODY of Christ – the BODY in which God’s Spirit was “doing the work.”
Christ organized Church
And Christ organized that Body – the begotten children of God, and therefore “… the household of God… built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:19-21). This is the TEMPLE to which Christ is coming (Malachi 3:1). The Church is here called a TEMPLE – fitly framed together and compacted – closely knit TOGETHER.
The only PURPOSE of the Church is to CARRY ON THE WORK WHICH CHRIST STARTED! It is now the BODY in which the Holy Spirit is working. And God set in the Church, to ORGANIZE it, apostles, prophets, pastors and teachers.
The CHURCH is the BODY OF CHRIST. And Jesus pictured Himself as THE VINE, and we of His Church are the BRANCHES on that vine. Notice it – study it – in John 15. Jesus is not SEVERAL SEPARATED VINES – He is one vine! The members of the BODY OF CHRIST are the BRANCHES! – but not separated, isolated branches. ALL ARE JOINED TO THE ONE VINE – the BODY OF CHRIST.
The Father is the Husbandman – the Vinedresser. Every branch of this grapevine (the Church) that does not bear fruit for the Kingdom, the Father prunes it – cuts it off – that the organized, united vine may bear MORE FRUIT.
When there are some in the Church who cause division or sow the seeds of discord, God says, “… mark them… and AVOID THEM” (Romans 16:17; see also II Thessalonians 3:6, 14-15). The Church will bear more fruit when the dissidents, those who obey not the Work, those who cause division and discord, are PRUNED OFF!
To the Church of God at Corinth, the apostle Paul wrote that all in the Church must SPEAK THE SAME THING, that there be no divisions among us (see I Corinthians 1:10).
Now FROM WHERE does the Church receive the doctrines and teachings they must all speak? THINK ON THIS! The Church, as Christ organized it, RECEIVED ITS BELIEFS AND TEACHINGS AND EVEN ITS CUSTOMS FROM THE APOSTLES! And the apostles had been taught by CHRIST.
Apostles held responsible
But the various individuals did not decide for themselves what to say, believe or speak – nor did they individually receive the truths from Christ. But God taught the apostles, and He HOLDS THE APOSTLES RESPONSIBLE for the doctrines given to the Church, that there be no divisions. We must all speak the SAME THING, but God holds the apostle responsible that what they all speak and believe is the RIGHT thing!
But there was no “Doctrinal Committee” nor group of other ministers or lay members who voted on doctrine and practice. Christ gave all that to His Church THROUGH HIS APOSTLES!
When Christ comes – SOON NOW – His WIFE shall have made herself ready and will enter in with Him to the marriage – the NEW COVENANT – and the DOOR WILL THEN BE SHUT (Matthew 25:10). Others who were alone, or various “groups” will then come and knock on the door – but Christ will say, “… I KNOW YOU NOT” (verse 12).
God’s Church has sorely needed a spiritual reawakening and revival. But the recent Feast of Tabernacles gave evidence that the needed revival is well under way. IT MUST CONTINUE, for very soon, now, the Church will have to have MADE HERSELF READY!]]>
Worldwide News – Special Edition, 24th June 1985, Page 1 – Recent History of the Philadelphia Era of the Worldwide Church of God By Herbert W. Armstrong “I want you, brethren, to think about and understand what happened to God’s Church in the 1970s “lest history repeat itself!” I want you to see the “fruits” of rebelling against God’s way and God’s government.
After all, the basic issue all along was that of God’s government in the Church. One who followed one liberal who, as the apostle Paul had predicted, sought to draw away followers after himself (Acts 20:30) said, “We are liberated from that church government and now have a loosely knit organization, and that’s the way we like it.”
Those liberals, who are no longer in God’s Church, actually seem to be more interested in news of the Church — especially false accusations, criticisms and persecutions of enemies — than are the loyal members of the Church. It would seem the chief interest in their lives is to hear false reports, accusations and innuendos against the church.
Daniel prophesied of our time: “Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand” (Daniel 12:10). Truly this has been a time of trying and testing. We are the firstfruits called to be students that we may become kings and priests and rule with Christ (Revelation 5:10). We in the Church are students, and we are in the time of final exams.
Little groups, splintering off, centered in Washington, D.C.; Eugene, Ore.; Tyler, Tex.; Monterey, Calif.; and other places with groups too small to mention. They are not bearing fruit for the Kingdom. They are not pleasing God or being blessed by Him. Jesus said, “By their fruits you shall know them.” They usually claim to be “branches” of the Church of God. But Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). He did not say denominations, sects, cults, branches or a church divided against itself. Rather He said a house divided against itself cannot stand. There is one true Church and one only. The apostle Paul pictured humanly self-appointed “branches” when he said to the elders of the local church at Ephesus that some of their own selves would depart to draw a following after themselves.
Paul said, “But now are they many members, yet but one body” (I Corinthians 12:20). How was that one body organized? Did it have one government? “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues” (verse 28). Verse 25 shows there should be no divisions in the body — no branches or branch organizations.
The Church is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone; in Whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy Temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:20-21). Note, the Church is organized and fitly framed together, not organized with competing and differing branches.
Notice Ephesians 4, there is only one organized church “fitly joined together and compacted” (verse 16) — compacted as if welded together into one well organized body. And how did He organize this body? How was it governed? “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith … (Ephesians 4:11-13). It is not DISunity or some other type of organization and government. Paul also said “that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Corinthians 1:10).
A primary reason for the contentions and slowing down in the growth of the Church during the liberal years is the fact that, in our desire to hold rebellious and liberal ministers and members within our fellowship, we did not rigidly obey the command of Romans 16:17: “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” Also in I Corinthians 5:11: “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.”
To make clear one of the reasons — if not the primary reason — for the conflict caused by the liberal element, I quote from a Western newspaper. In an interview with a former minister, who had sought to draw away a following of members after himself, it was stated concerning this split-off church that they have “a completely different administrative structure.”
The story continued to explain that they totally differ with the governmental structure of God’s Church. He was quoted as saying “he also does not believe in expelling people from the church if they do not live up to its teachings.” It also stated they believe “the church is where people belong to help them overcome their problems.” In other words the liberal idea is to disobey God’s instruction to disfellowship and avoid those who are contentious and cause division and accept members who believe and live contrary to the teachings of Christ and the Bible.
Most of the dissension of the past in the Church has been over the matter of government. The dissenters believe in a very liberal government — the way of Satan and his world. The whole purpose of the Gospel is to call those chosen by God out of this world and its ways into the ways of God. God’s government is based on God’s law. All government, even in the world’s nations, is based on a foundation of law. A law is simply the rules of human conduct and behavior. The righteousness of God merely means righteous conduct and behavior based on the great spiritual law of God.
Christ said, “Every plant, which My heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up” (Matthew 15:13). And the apostle John also stated, “They went out from us, but they were not of us …” (I John 2:19).
We who remain in the one and only true Church grieve over the loss of those who are so far failing in their final exams.
But sadly we remember that part of the responsibility is ours in not strictly heeding the admonition in Romans 16:17 to note those that cause division and avoid them. We love them all and pray for them. Some of them who have gone out from us were parents, children, brothers, sisters or close relatives to those who remain steadfast.
Meanwhile, we pray also that God will keep those of us who remain loyal, constantly steadfast, growing in grace and spiritual character and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, overcoming self, the world and Satan and enduring to the end. Pray that you, the loyal members of God’s Church, remain dedicated to the Kingdom of God — which is the government of God.
Now one final reminder to the Church and all loyal ministers. If any who have gone out from this wonderful fellowship that we have in God’s one and only true Church, profess repentance and wish to come back, they must now, as John the Baptist said, “Bring forth fruits meet for repentance” or prove their repentance by performance over an adequate period of time. I personally do, and hope all of our loyal members will, pray for their repentance and ultimate return.
The Church is the embryo of the coming Kingdom of God, which is the family of God. There will be no divisions in that Kingdom. There must be none in the Church.
A final personal word. In a few days I will be 93 years of age. For some years now, there have been some, like vultures, waiting for me to die. They would like to come back and take over the leadership of the Church in my stead. I have been deeply concerned about this, but in no sense worried. This is the Church of God, not of any man. Jesus Christ is the living Head of this Church. I am not.
And Jesus Christ will never receive any of those who have gone out to draw a following after themselves to come back and lead God’s Church into Satan’s liberalism. It would be no longer God’s Church, even as Ambassador College was no longer God’s college, and Christ had to start it all over again through me with one freshman class. “]]>
http://sermons.wwcg-archives.com/1980-07-20%20-%201Cor%27ns%201-2%20-%20HWA.mp3 [Begin quote] “Finally, by 1946 I came to see that we had to have a college. But I didn’t have any money to start a college with. I knew God wanted a college and I prayed about it and told God that I would have to rely on Him and we would have to start it in faith. Every dime of money coming was already obligated for broadcasting and getting out The Plain Truth, such as it was in those days. It didn’t cost much then because it was pretty small. But there was nothing for a college. And that first year was a hell on earth, believe me. We almost went under. No one gave me any encouragement. Everyone was talking about when this thing folds up, speaking contemptuously of it. But I didn’t quit. I didn’t give up. So we started out with four students. And I had to hire 12 professors. I think 2 or 3 had PhD’s, 2 or 3 had Masters and the rest had Bachelor’s degrees. But by the end of that year, we were (even) beginning to get behind in paying their salaries. But I didn’t quit. And by the end of the second year, all of a sudden God sent enough money, which paid for everything. And we saved the property that we almost lost and somehow the college was saved. But it took resourcefulness, it took faith, it took sticking with it, when everybody else said it was lost and gone. It took determination. It took suffering, persecution and opposition. Did I make myself the leader? Did I make myself an apostle? Never! Verse 11: “For it has been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.” Verse 12: “Now this I say, that everyone of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas, and I of Christ.” – I’m just loner, that I worship Christ all by myself. Verse 13: “Is Christ divided?” Christ is not divided. There is only one church. That one church must all speak the same thing, that there be no divisions. That church can’t be divided. God only had one ancient nation, Israel, a type of the New Testament Church. It got divided into two nations, one called Israel and one Called Judah (Because of Solomon’s sins). They departed from God. Israel departed first and then later Judah departed. When others try to go out and start another church and divide the church that is not of God. If it is the true church, then any other is not. If this was the true church when those ministers who have gone out left, it is still the true church. Christ said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you. He hasn’t left or forsaken this church. We still speak the same thing we spoke then. What do they speak? They want to speak something different. Is Christ divided? Do they all speak the same thing? “No, they don’t. No two of them speak the same thing! Christ wants us all to speak the same thing. Let me ask you now… How are we all going to speak the same thing? If you Doc Kessler make up in your mind what you want to speak and you speak that, and you Mr. Tkach make up your mind what you want, but that is a little different than Doc Kessler, and you speak that, and you Mr. Dean you’ve got something else in your mind that you want to speak, then we already have quite a division. I don’t need to go on to the rest of you. We are all divided and that is not the Church of God. The Church of God is not divided. The minute you get into that, it is no longer the Church of God. We’ve (all) got to speak the same thing. How can it be? How did the early Church all speak the same thing? They did at first. God blessed it and it grew and multiplied for a little while. (But) not very long. Persecution was too rampant. It spoke the same thing because it spoke what Christ gave it. Christ didn’t tell it to each individual. How did they get it from Christ? They got it from Peter and the other apostles. How did they get it? Christ taught them. They put it in the church. What they believed came by apostles, but it came from Christ. Now what are the fruits of today’s church? It has survived all the opposition. If this is the Church of God, is Satan going to honor and bless it, or is he going to destroy it? How does Satan do it? He’ll bore within – using fifth column tactics. He has done it, and we have had to put some out. Once they get out they fight, but they don’t get anywhere any longer. The only way we can speak the same thing is if we speak what Christ put into the Church through an apostle. That’s the way he did it to start. Does Christ change? He is the same yesterday, today and forever. If we are to speak the same thing then the only way we can do it is to speak what Christ put into the church through his chosen apostle. Now if I’m not that chosen apostle, you go find the one who is. And then follow what he says. I invite you to do that. So you see there is only the one way we can all speak the same thing. They tried having a doctrinal committee and each man on it saw things a different way. They were all divided. Finally, I just abolished the whole thing except the doctrine which Christ gave me. And that is the official doctrine of the church today. ” [End quote]]]>
WHY Did God Put YOU in His Church? God had a most important PURPOSE in calling you NOW, instead of later. Are you really mindful of His PURPOSE — are you really fulfilling it? by Herbert W. Armstrong Feb 21, 1974 Coworker Letter, May 1974 Issue of The Good News Magazine REALIZE THIS! There are more than 3,600,050,000 human beings (three billion, six hundred million, fifty thousand) on earth today. But of that vast sea of humanity, God has in our time up to now called and put into His Church ONLY some 50,000 baptized members. The other 3,600,000,000 will all be called later — most not even in this age. They could not come to Christ and be put into the Church NOW, even if they tried! Then why were YOU called now, before the time? Jesus said plainly: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (John 6:44). And, comparatively speaking, God has been drawing almost NONE in this age!
“WHEN the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: And before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats” (Matt. 25:31-32).This is not referring to separating those of us already converted now from the rest of the world then. We have already been separated from the world by conversion, and we shall have been separated by already having received eternal life prior to Christ’s setting foot on earth. For “… the dead in Christ shall rise first; Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air … (I Thess. 4:16-17). Thus we, converted now BEFORE the time, shall have been changed from mortal to immortal, meeting Christ in the air as He descends — BEFORE His feet stand on the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:11-12; Zech. 14:4) — and BEFORE He sits on David’s throne which then becomes CHRIST’S throne in Jerusalem. Now, continuing in Matthew 25:33: “And He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:33-34). So it is after Christ’s return to earth, and in the thousand- year reign with Him, that He will set His hand to SAVE THE WORLD! Notice next Isaiah 11. Verses 1 through 5 show Christ as the righteous Ruler and Judge. Verses 6 through 9 show the wild animals tamed, and the earth as full of Christ’s KNOWLEDGE as the ocean beds are full of water. Verse 10 shows the Gentile nations seeking CHRIST and salvation. Verses 11 through 16 show Christ setting His hand to save Israel and the whole world — during the Millennium.
Jesus was speaking in the Temple at Jerusalem. “As he spake these words, many believed on Him. Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If ye continue in my word [IF you believe my message and act on it — live by it], then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:30-32).This angered those “who BELIEVED ON Him.” They hotly denied they were not free. They were Abraham’s descendants! “I know,” answered Jesus, “that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word [the Gospel] hath no place in you” (verse 37). It was that message — that GOSPEL — which caused those to whom Jesus came to cry out for His crucifixion. His apostles went out proclaiming the same MESSAGE; they, too, were put to death for it — with the possible exception of John.