Rosh Hashanah this year begins at sundown on October 2nd. It is the first of the fall festivals and considered to be the beginning of the lunar new year. The Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkoth, follows soon after on October 16th.
The idea of using the first day of January to mark the beginning of the new year dates back to time of Julius Caesar—five decades before the birth of Jesus. Even as the Julian calendar spread in popularity, some areas continued to use dates in March and September as New Year’s Day.
It wasn’t until the 1570s that Pope Gregory put the Gregorian calendar into effect, restoring January 1st as the first day of the new year. This change in tradition wasn’t officially implemented by England until 1752.
I think it’s interesting, that January 1st of the Gregorian calendar went into effect as the new year in the1570’s but not officially accepted by England or the American colonies until nearly 200 hundred years later. So up until then, England and the American colonies were counting the new year from March 25th which is more closely aligned to the Hebrew lunar calendar.
Why did the Church stop observing the biblical feasts?
So when did God’s feasts stop being relevant to Christians and why? What happened long after Jesus’ death, Resurrection, the destruction of the Temple or even hundreds of years later that caused believers to abandon these biblical “Feasts of the Lord” in favor of new traditions?
According to Eusebius’ Life of Constantine, Book III chapter 18, the Roman emperor Constantine stated: “Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd; for we have received from our Saviour a different way.”
Constantine was a worshiper of the sun-god Mithras and December 25th was Mithras’ birthday—that later became adopted as Christmas. A few decades after Christmas was adopted by Rome, the Roman Catholic John Chrysostom preached the following in 387 A.D.: “The festivals of the pitiful and miserable Jews are soon to march upon us one after the other and in quick succession: the feast of Trumpets, the feast of Tabernacles, the fasts. There are many in our ranks who say they think as we do. Yet some of these are going to watch the festivals and others will join the Jews in keeping their feasts and observing their fasts. I wish to drive this perverse custom from the Church right now…If the Jewish ceremonies are venerable and great, ours are lies…Does God hate their festivals and do you share in them?” (John Chrysostom. Homily I Against the Jews I:5;VI:5;VII:2. )
Notice that he did not say this or that festival, but all of them together.
Many Christians pick out Colossians 2:16-18 and mistakingly believe that Paul is telling us not to observe the feasts: “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”
But Paul is not telling us NOT to observe God’s festivals or Sabbaths, he is telling us not to let others JUDGE us when we DO observe them! And who were those Paul was speaking of who would judge them? The legalistic Jews who would impose man-made ordinances and rules on the new Jewish believers. But Paul tells them: “Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings.” (Vs. 20-22)
The New Testament Christians kept the Fall Holy Days
The Apostles Paul wrote: “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) And that included keeping the biblical feast days.
Notice that even after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the importance that the Apostle Paul attached to keeping a Feast in Jerusalem: “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing.” (Acts 18:21 KJV)
I find it interesting that many Bible translations today have removed the part of that verse that says, “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem.” Compare it to the NIV which reads, “But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus.” Why no mention of keeping the feast in Jerusalem?
Feasts of the Lord—Not just Jewish feasts
In Leviticus 23:1-2 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts OF THE LORD that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are MY appointed feasts. (Emphasis mine)
Notice that God did not say, “These are Jewish feasts.” But he said, “These are the appointed feasts OF THE LORD.” And “They are MY appointed feasts.”
The Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah)
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present a food offering to the Lord.” -Leviticus 23:24-25
The Hebrew word “moed” is commonly translated “feast” or “festival” in the Bible, but it really means “appointment”. God has set a number of “divine appointments” with Him on the yearly calendar. Appointments that Jesus celebrated, that the first Christians celebrated, that foreshadows the return of Jesus for His bride and that the entire planet will celebrate during the 1000 year reign of Jesus on earth.
It is very important for believers to learn about these festivals, because God didn’t just create them for us to have a good time. All of the festivals are about Jesus, and all of them are highly prophetic.
The Feasts are commanded to be observed forever.
In Zechariah 14:16-19 we read: “Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, they will have no rain. If the Egyptian people do not go up and take part, they will have no rain. The Lord will bring on them the plague he inflicts on the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. This will be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles.”
In Leviticus 23:41 the word used for “forever” is the Hebrew word, עוֹלָם (`owlam) and means, long duration, antiquity, futurity, everlasting, evermore, perpetual, always, continuous existence, unending, eternity—In other words, FOREVER!
The New Testament Greek word for forever is aion (ahee-ohn’) and means at all times, always, perpetual, continuously, or continuous—In other words, FOREVER!
The account in Zechariah 14 refers to the time AFTER Jesus returns to earth and emphasizes the fact that this Feast is a statute forever. All nations are commanded to observe this Feast in the millennium. Eventually, all nations will come to understand and appreciate God’s commanded Feasts.
Human tradition stops many from observing God’s feasts. Notice some of what Jesus taught about religious people who preferred traditions over the commands of the Bible:
“Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:7-9)
Those who have their minds set on earthly things lose sight of the world to come. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. (Phil.3:19) Esau was faithless and willing to give up his inheritance in exchange for the immediate gratification of his earthly hunger. But we do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
It is very easy to become ensnared by the superficial trappings of worldly comforts so that we fail to realize just how vulnerable and naked we are in this world.
The Sukkah reminds us of our weakness and vulnerability:
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary, troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1)
The Feast of Tabernacles is not just to remind us that the Hebrews lived in booths, but also that God dwelt among his people. They were led by his glorious presence and the tabernacle of the Lord was pitched in the midst of their tents. The Sukkah reminds us that as we live within this mortal, temporary body, God also dwells with us as he leads us by His Spirit to our eternal dwelling.
Only when we put aside this earthly tent and receive our glorified immortal bodies will we rejoice in the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promises, yet we rejoice even now because we have been given the first-fruits of the Spirit guaranteeing our citizenship in the heavenly Jerusalem which is yet to be revealed.
Sadly, most Christians don’t know anything about these amazing festivals even though they are featured very prominently in the Scriptures.
Jesus said, “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Mathew 5:17-19 NLT)
The purpose of God’s law will not be achieved until after the return of Jesus. The only thing Jesus accomplished by his death and resurrection was the forgiveness of our sins and the giving of God’s Spirit. All through the New testament writings we read, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Which commandments? All of them. (John 14:15, 21,23; John 15:10;1 John 2:3; 1 John 5:3; 2 John 1:6)
So should we obey the commandments of God as revealed in the Bible and observe His appointed feasts—as practiced by Jesus and the early Christian Church, or should we replace God’s feasts with the pagan-based holidays of the traditions of men?
As for me, I will reject the traditions of men and let God arise: