Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Shavuot is a little known holiday among Christians today. It is ironic to me, since it commemorates the single most important event in Judeo-Christian history—the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. And in the 3,300 years since, the Torah’s ideals—monotheism, justice, responsibility—have become the moral basis for Western civilization.

Shavuot (Hebrew for “Weeks”) occurs on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan (late May or early June). Shavuot commemorates the early harvest in the land of Israel. (See Leviticus 23:9-16 and Deuteronomy 16:9-11) It is one of the three biblical pilgrimage festivals. It also commemorates the anniversary of the day God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses and the Israelites at Mount Sinai.

Since Shavuot occurs 50 days (7 weeks) after the first day of Passover, it is sometimes known in Christian circles as “Pentecost,” a Greek word meaning “50 days.” Shavuot, however, has no connection to the Christian Pentecost holiday.

Many people today are taught that after leaving Egypt on the day of the Passover, only Jews traveled into the Sinai desert. And there, God spoke to the entire Jewish nation and  instructed them to keep the Ten Commandments He inscribed on the stone tablets. (See Deuteronomy 4:1-14) So they mistakenly assume that all of the feasts mentioned in the Old Testament are meant only for Jews. But what most Christians fail to understand is that when the Hebrews left Egypt they were also joined by non-Hebrew people. We read in Exodus 12:38 that a “mixed multitude” went with them. Some perhaps, willing to leave their country after it was laid waste by plagues; others, out of curiosity; perhaps a few out of love for the Hebrews and their religion. And the same laws applied both to the native-born Hebrew and to the foreigner. (verse 49) Also, the Bible never refers to the feasts as Jewish feasts, but the “Feasts of the Lord”. (See Leviticus 23:2, 4, 37, 44; 2 Chronicles 2:4; Ezra 3:5)

How to Celebrate Shavuot

In biblical times, Shavuot was tied to the agricultural calendar. It originally celebrated the first fruits of the wheat harvest seven weeks after Passover (Leviticus 23:15-16). Counting the omer between the holidays added an element of anticipation of looking forward to Shavuot and a bountiful harvest. On this pilgrimage feast, Israelites traveled to Jerusalem to offer the first portion of their crops to the Lord in thanksgiving for His provision of food.

Celebrating the Spiritual Harvest

But Shavuot is more than the celebration of the first fruits of a physical harvest. Today, we observe it as the first fruits of a spiritual harvest. On the first Shavuot after Jesus’s death and resurrection, the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit that enabled them to speak so that many people in attendance heard their words in their native tongue! Many who heard these messages in their own languages were amazed, though others thought the disciples were just drunk. (Acts 2:12)

Peter went on to explain that Jesus had been raised from the dead and God had poured out His Spirit in fulfillment of His promise through Joel 2:32-33. When the crowd asked what they should do, Peter urged them to turn their lives around and be baptized in the name of Jesus. Then they would be forgiven and would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:37-39) About 3,000 people were added to the church that same day!

Just as Jesus promised, God sent His Spirit on that Shavuot to enable His people to be witnesses for Him: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Anticipating the Future Harvest

Thus, Shavuot is a reminder that we are living in anticipation of a harvest that is yet to come when people from every nation will be gathered into God’s Kingdom. Until that final harvest time, God expects us to be His witnesses to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection to all peoples and nations. And He has empowered us for this task. How we celebrate Shavuot can impact the size of that future harvest as we obey God’s commandments and share the gospel to all peoples, nations and tongues.

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This month, many will gather around the dinner table to celebrate Thanksgiving. For many Americans, the Thanksgiving meal includes seasonal dishes such as roast turkey with stuffing, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, yams and pumpkin pie.

For years we have been taught that in 1620 the Pilgrims sailed from England on the Mayflower to escape religious persecution and landed at what became Plymouth, Massachusetts. Over 1/2 of them died during the winter of 1620—even though by local standards, that winter was a fairly mild one. The Plymouth settlers were inexperienced at farming and not used to being exposed to the elements. The next year, with the help of the local natives, the pilgrims celebrated their first good harvest and invited a group of Native American allies to celebrate with them. The feast lasted three days. And ever since then, as the story goes, Americans have celebrated Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, this is a celebration that is based on a lie.

So what’s the true version of what happened?

The notion that the first Thanksgiving was some kind of cross-cultural love-fest, as it has been portrayed, has even been disputed by historians, who say that the settlers and the Indians were brought together more by their mutual need than by genuine friendship. The two struggling communities were never more than wary allies against other tribes. More like, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

The colonists were actually contemptuous of the Indians, who they regarded as uncivilized, paganistic heathens, and the fragile early peace between Native Americans and the early settlers would soon unravel into a horrific slaughter. When their “Native American allies” were celebrating their own green corn festival, a band of Puritans descended on their village and shot, clubbed and burned alive over 700 native men, women and children.

This slaughter, according to Robert Jensen, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, was the real origin of Thanksgiving—so proclaimed in 1637 by Massachusetts Bay Governor John Winthrop in gratitude for God’s destruction of the defenseless Pequot village. Thereafter massacres of the Indians were routinely followed by “days of thanksgiving.”

Native Americans and Israel

Although many of the early European settlers saw the Native Americans as savages (and treated them accordingly), others believed them to be the lost ten tribes of Israel. William Penn, for whom the US Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is named, was one who believed strongly that Native Americans came from the stock of Israelites. He was well known for his good relationships and successful treaties with the natives.

Although many Jewish scholars and historians have disputed this for years, the similarities between Israelite and Native American culture are remarkable:

They both worship one God. (Or one Great Spirit) Both groups were minorities in the face of enemy oppression—The Native Americans faced off against the expanding European colonists, while the Israelites were crushed by the powers of the Assyrians and Babylonians. Both groups have faced slavery, exile and the threat of genocide throughout history.

But what I find particularly remarkable is the similarities between Native American feasts and celebrations and God’s feasts set in the Bible. Both the Native American celebrations and the biblical Fall Feast Days typically coincide in the late summer and early fall and are tied to the ripening and harvesting of crops. They are both marked with dancing, feasting, fasting and religious observations. Activities vary from tribe to tribe, but the common thread is giving proper thanks to God.

In 1973 Dr. Joseph Mahan, an expert in ancient Indian ethnology of the southeastern Indians of the United States, discovered that the Yuchi tribe of Florida and Georgia amazingly showed strong evidence that they had contact with some form of Judaism in historic times. They had a custom that every year on the fifteenth day of the sacred month of harvest, in the fall, for eight days they lived in “booths” with roofs open to the sky, covered with branches and leaves and foliage. During this festival, they danced around the sacred fire, and called upon the name of God.

The ancient Israelites had virtually the identical custom in many respects. In the harvest season in the fall, on the 15th day of the seventh month, (Tishri) Jews and Torah observant believers celebrate the festival of booths for eight days. (Also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot in Hebrew) They live in temporary booths, covered with branches and leaves from “goodly trees”. This festival, and many others, goes back to the time of Moses and the Exodus from ancient Egypt. (See Leviticus 23)

Dr. Cyrus Gordon, of Brandeis University in Boston, was privileged to sit in on one of the fall harvest festivals of the Yuchi Indians, and listened to their chants, songs, and sacred ceremonies. An expert in Hebrew, Minoan, and many Middle Eastern languages, he was incredulous as he listened to the chants. He exclaimed to his companion, “They are speaking the Hebrew names for God!”

How is it that two totally separated peoples observe the identical custom? And since it has been a long standing custom during Sukkot to invite friends and family to share a meal inside their Sukkah, or shelter, is it possible that it was the Native Americans who invited the Pilgrims to celebrate their own fall harvest feast, and not the other way around?

Summary: 

In any civilization, error can be present, and false spirituality can arise. While I am not suggesting that Thanksgiving should become the occasion for a yearly guilt trip, we would do well to remember, as we sit around the bountiful table with our family and friends, the high price the first indigenous Americans paid for European expansion into their territories. Only by openly acknowledging the sins of our collective past, is it possible to proceed toward a future that all Americans can feel thankful for.

We need to de-program ourselves from arrogantly thinking that God would only want to reveal himself (and his laws) to just one part of his creation. We need to realize that God wants ALL of his creation to know him as Father, Creator and supplier of all our needs.

It is also worthy to note that the Native Americans themselves did not choose to identity themselves with the oppressed Jews, but outside powers did that for them.

It is clear that Native Americans possess a special spirituality, that should remind us of the holy teachings given by God—if we would only study God’s holy word and listen to his small, still voice.

Many Christians today believe that the Ten Commandments are still valid, but that after the death and resurrection of Jesus, Christians are no longer under the Law, but under grace and the other commandments listed in the Old Testament apply only to the Jews.

They also teach that there are only four rules that were given to the early Gentile Christians coming into the faith, and quote Acts 15:19-20 to prove their point: ”Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.”

This passage seems to show that this is true…Until we read verse 21: “For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim Him, for He is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”

You see, the Torah wasn’t forced on the new Gentile Christians all at once—anymore than Bible verses are forced on us in our churches today. And just as today, it was understood that people would learn it gradually over time, hearing it each week in the synagogues. The four rules that were given to the early Gentile Christians were meant for only a starting point, with the understanding that they would gradually come to know the whole truth as they were taught in the synagogues. In fact, even ancient Israel wasn’t forced to learn Torah in a single day either—they also received it over time.

Christians today generally ignore verse 21 in the above passage because the ramifications are obvious: The Gentile Christians were given these four laws in order to have the bare basics to BEGIN their new life with the Messiah, knowing they would learn the rest of Torah each Sabbath in the synagogue.

There are three important facts that we need to understand: 

  1. Being Jewish is not necessarily associated with a religion. It is associated with a nationality.
  2. The word, ‘Gentile’ simply means non-Jew—or someone from other than the tribe of Judah.
  3. The Hebrew word ‘goy’ means nation, and refers to the fact that goyim (gentiles) are members of other nations, that is, nations other than the Jews. (Tribe of Judah)

So all Jews are Israelites, but not all Israelites are Jews. Just as all Cherokee are Native Americans, but not all Native Americans are Cherokee.

It was only after being confronted by some Jewish believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees who said, “It is necessary to circumcise them (the gentiles) and to order them to keep the law of Moses”, did the apostles decide not to put a yoke upon the new believers “which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear”, that they required the new believers to begin with the four rules. (See  Acts 15:5-11)

Circumcision had become a conversion ritual by the legalistic Pharisees just as baptism is often misused today by legalistic Christians as a means of joining a particular church or denomination.

It was understood by all the apostles that God’s Laws were never changed or replaced. We know this from the teachings of Jesus when he said, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Matt 5:17,18) All will not be accomplished until AFTER Jesus returns.

God spoke through the prophet Malachi and said, “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. (Malachi 3:6) And in Hebrews 13:8 we read, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

If God has not changed, and Jesus has not changed, God’s laws have not changed.

So who or what changed? 

“When the Lord your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.” (Deuteronomy 12:29-32)

Unfortunately, that is exactly what we did. We gentiles have dispossessed nations and then adapted their ways and served their gods. We have exchanged God’s Holy Feast Days and His laws for pagan rituals and human traditions.

Even though Jesus and all of the apostles observed all of God’s laws and Holy Feast Days, they also knew that there would be those who would claim the power to change God’s Law. Through the prophet Daniel we are warned of just such a man. Describing the “little horn power”, Daniel prophesied saying, “He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws…” (Daniel 7:8-25) The apostle Paul warned that this blasphemy was already at work and that it would come not from an outside influence, but from within the Church itself! (2 Thessalonians 2:7)

The Roman emperor Constantine, a self proclaimed sun-worshiper, professed conversion to Christianity, though his actions suggest his “conversion” was more of a political move than a genuine heart change. Later, as Christianity grew, church leaders wished to increase the numbers of the church. In order to make the gospel more attractive to non-Christians, pagan customs were incorporated into the church’s sacraments and holy days—such as Sunday worship, Mass, Lent, Christmas and Easter.

The apostle Paul writes in Colossians 2:8, See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” And yet, all of the holidays celebrated in churches across the globe are “according to human tradition” and are pagan in nature.

Many Protestant Christians refuse to acknowledge that most of their own church doctrines are based on teachings from the apostate Roman Catholic Church. The most common example is when the Catholic Church changed God’s 7th day Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11) to the 1st day Sunday worship. Millions of Christians now worship on Sunday, even though God has commanded us to observe HIS Sabbaths, (Exodus 31:13) and that it is a sign between us and God, to show that we belong to Him. (Exodus 31:13; Ezekiel 20:20)

This change of God’s laws by the Catholic Church has even been documented in many of the Catechism literature:

In the Convert’s Catechism of Catholic Doctrine

Q. Which is the Sabbath day?

A. Saturday is the Sabbath day.

Q. Why do we observe Sunday instead of Saturday?

A. We observe Sunday instead of Saturday because the Catholic Church, in the Council of Laodicea, (AD 336) transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday.

(Rev. Peter Geiermann, C.SS.R., (1946), p. 50)

In the Catholic Christian Instructed

Q. Has the [Catholic] church power to make any alterations in the commandments of God?

A. Instead of the seventh day, and other festivals appointed by the old law, the church has prescribed the Sundays and holy days to be set apart for God’s worship; and these we are now obliged to keep in consequence of God’s commandment, instead of the ancient Sabbath. (The Catholic Christian Instructed in the Sacraments, Sacrifices, Ceremonies, and Observances of the Church by RT Rev. Dr. Challoner, p. 204)

[It is important to note here that the Catholic church is not referring to God’s Feasts of the Bible when mentioning their own feasts and holy days.]

In An Abridgment of the Christian Doctrine

Q. How prove you that the church hath power to command feasts and holy days?

A. By the very act of changing the Sabbath into Sunday, which Protestants allow of; and therefore they fondly contradict themselves, by keeping Sunday strictly, and breaking most other feasts commanded by the same church.

Q. How prove you that?

A. Because by keeping Sunday, they acknowledge the church’s power to ordain feasts, and to command them under sin; and by not keeping the rest [of the feasts] by her commanded, they again deny, in fact, the same power. (Rev. Henry Tuberville, D.D. (R.C.), (1833), page 58)

Ignatius Bishop of Antioch (98-117A.D.) wrote in his ‘Epistle to the Magnesians’: “For if we are still practicing Judaism, we admit that we have not received God’s favor…it is wrong to talk about Jesus Christ and live like Jews…”

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. )

2 Timothy 2:15 commands us to, “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” God expects us to know His Word so that we can act on it. Proper Bible study of both the Old and New Testaments leads to approval from God. Paul explained that people are the servants of whatever and whoever they obey. (Rom. 6:16- 23)

We read in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”

I particularly like the New Living Translation: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”

What most people fail to realize about this verse is that The Law, The Prophets and other writings of the Old Testament were the only Scripture available when Paul wrote this to Timothy!

I once had a conversation with a woman about Christmas and showed her from Scripture how Jesus could not have been born on December 25th. I also explained how all of the symbols used during the Christmas season were pagan in nature. Sadly, at the end of our conversation she said, “I know that what you’re saying is true, but my family has always celebrated Christmas this way and I can’t change now.” At that moment she went from ignorance to rebellion. And God says, “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” (1 Samuel 15:23)

Sadly, most Christians today feel the same way. Even though they know that all of the holidays they celebrate in their church are pagan in nature, they still continue to observe them as if they are commanded by God. Jesus disputed this when he said, “Why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3)

If God commanded that certain Holy Feast Days be kept, then shouldn’t you be certain why you choose NOT to observe them? No matter how comfortable a lifelong practice may be, shouldn’t you base your decision to continue doing it on hard evidence from Scripture instead of assumptions and traditions?

If God does not change, then neither will His Law. “My covenant I will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips.” (Psalm 89:34) “I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.” (Ecclesiastes 3:14)

In 1 John 5:3 we read: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” Mathew Henry writes in his commentary on 1 John, “As God’s commands are holy, just, and good rules of liberty and happiness, so those who are born of God and love him, do not count them grievous, but lament that they cannot serve him more perfectly.”

God’s laws are not burdensome. It is man’s additions and changes to God’s laws that are burdensome. And if we say that we love God but refuse to obey him, then we will end up just going through the motions:

Word of God

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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:

Most Christians think of the “Last Supper” as more of a symbolic communion than a feast meal. Because of this, many often miss out on the full meaning of the Passover and the additional meaning Jesus gave to it.

Jesus kept Passover as a child and an adult. (Luke 2:41-43; Mark 14:12-26; John 12:12) Mark 14:12 shows that the last supper was not a memorial observance, but a Passover meal. “his disciples said to him, where do you want us to go and prepare, that you may eat the Passover.” (cf. Matthew 26; Luke 22)

If Passover was replaced with the Last Supper, shouldn’t it also be commemorated once a year? Because once a year on the anniversary date of Jesus’ death would be more consistent with the belief that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper at the time of the Jewish Passover.

Many believe that Passover is a Jewish festival made only for Jews. And some even teach that every Jew who has become a Christian, should no longer celebrate these very important festivals. Because they believe that the Lord’s Supper replaced the annual feast days, they say that no Christian should observe the Jewish Passover and that the death of Jesus Christ is the only event, which Christians should memorialize.

But Scripture states that Passover, and ALL the feasts that are celebrated once a year are God’s feasts. In Leviticus 23 we read, “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts.’ “ (Emphasis mine)

These are God’s feasts, NOT just Jewish feasts!

“And a mixed multitude went up also with them…” (Exodus 12:38) Some of these “mixed multitude” were Egyptians, and some of other nations that had resided in Egypt, and who, for various reasons, chose to go along with the children of Israel. In doing so, the mixed multitude became part of the children of Israel—And were recognized as such by Moses and by God.

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-34)

“If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.” (Exodus 12:48-49)

“You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the foreigners residing among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel.” (Ezekiel 47:22)

“Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:11-13)

Did Jesus and his disciples observe Passover or the Last Supper?

Passover associates 4 or 5 cups of wine, not just one. In Luke’s account of this supper the wine is taken at least twice; at the beginning and end of the meal. It is most likely that the ‘last cup of wine’ is associated with the third Passover cup, the cup of  redemption, (Exodus 6.6) associated with the coming of Elijah and the expectation of the coming of the Messiah. The fourth cup—the cup of consummation, Jesus declined to drink (Matthew 26.29; Mark 14.25; because between the third and fourth cups he would not drink until his return and consummation of his kingdom.

‘Dipping in the bowl’ in Matthew 26:23 and in Mark 14:20 may refer to the dipping of bitter herbs in either water or wine during the Passover Seder.

The meal concluded with the singing of hymns (Matthew 26.30; Mark 14:26), possibly the second half of the Hallel, (Psalms 113-118) traditionally associated with Passover.

The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church these words: “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.” (I Corinthians 5:7-8)

Notice, Paul said plainly enough, “Let us KEEP THE FESTIVAL” Not only did Paul in this verse exhort the Corinthians—many of whom were Gentile believers—to observe this Passover festival season, but he himself did so, setting them an example. Keeping the festival of Passover and Matzah symbolizes living the Christian life in holy dedication to God. That is why Paul uses the illustration of leaven when writing to the Corinthian Church.

What other scholars say about this:

“The construction of the Greek verb translated “let us keep the feast” is called horatory subjunctive, which is commonly used to exhort or command oneself and one’s associates. This use of the subjunctive is used to urge someone to unite with the speaker in a course of action upon which he has already decided.” (Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, p. 464)

“Some go to great lengths to attempt to sidestep this clear command to “keep the feast” by alleging that the expression is in some way figurative, since he uses other figurative language in this section of Scripture. But the reason he gives to “keep the Feast” is because “Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us.” Christ’s sacrifice was a literal event; so is keeping the festival that relates to His sacrifice. And a cardinal rule of interpreting the Bible is to prefer the simple, obvious meaning.” ( Edward W. Goodrick, Do It Yourself Hebrew and Greek, p. 12:1 )

Jehovah Witnesses claim to know exactly the date when Jesus Christ introduced the Last Supper.

According the Jehovah Witness website, “Jesus Christ instituted the Memorial of his death (the Lord’s evening meal or Supper) on Nisan 14, according to the biblical Jewish calendar that was common in the first century. Jesus Christ also died on Nisan 14 (in the afternoon about three o’clock). Why that? Because in the first century the Jewish day began at sundown and extended until the following sundown. So Jesus Christ died exactly on the same Jewish calendar day. Jesus instituted the Memorial of his death after sundown on Nisan 14, at the beginning of this day.”

But when is Nisan 14 in our calendar? Jehovah Witnesses claim it was March 23, 2016. But the14th of Nisan in 2016, (Hebrew calendar 5776) begins at sundown on April 22, 2016 not March 23rd. March 23, 2016 is the 13th of Adar II and is the date that Purim begins. (http://www.hebcal.com/hebcal/?year=2016&v=1&month=x&yt=G&nx=on&o=on&vis=on&d=on&c=off&maj=on&min=on&mod=on)

It is interesting that Hebrews 11:28 regards Moses’ keeping of the Passover as an act of faith, not ritual. It was observed in direct trust in God’s means of salvation from Egypt—however illogical it may have seemed at the time.

Thus, the “last supper” was not a memorial symbolized with just the breaking of bread and drinking wine, but a full feast meal—not only looking back on the exodus, but also looking forward to the crucifixion and ultimately towards the second coming of Jesus and the consummation of the messianic kingdom. (cf. Isaiah 25:6-9)

As such, the early church continued to observe it, but eventually exchanging God’s Agape (love) feast for the more symbolic last supper/eucharist. (Perhaps because of the kind of excess mentioned in 1 Corinthians 11:17-22)

In the end, the Agape was forgotten and the eucharist became more formal, central and even ‘magical’ in the later doctrine of transubstantiation. The Passover symbolism is mostly lost on gentile believers. Jesus was the ultimate Passover lamb, (1 Corinthians 5:7) and as such died with all his bones intact. (cf. Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12; Psalm 34:20)

God’s Passover feast is considered by some to be outdated history. But the treasuring of our freedom through education and enactment is a joyful occasion.

Why does the Church emphasize the morbid death of Christ through the symbolic last supper/eucharist more than his joyous resurrection or return? Indeed, the purpose of Passover is a way of proclaiming our redemption and freedom from the bondage of sin through the sacrificial blood of the Lamb of God!

NEXT YEAR IN THE NEW JERUSALEM!

Many of us get more of our theology from greeting cards, TV specials and movies than we do from studying the Bible. And we do ourselves (and God) a great disservice when we follow traditions of men rather than the truth of God’s Word. Take for example, some of the traditions of Christmas:

Most of the customs, lore, symbols, and rituals associated with Christmas are actually linked to the Winter Solstice celebrations of ancient pagan cultures. While Christian beliefs are interwoven with contemporary observances of this holiday time, its pagan nature is still strong and apparent. Simply by giving spiritual focus to existing pagan holiday customs does not change that.

The History of Christmas Carols

Carols were first sung in Europe thousands of years ago, but these were not Christmas Carols. They were pagan songs, sung at the Winter Solstice celebrations as people danced around stone circles. The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year, usually taking place around the 22nd of December. The word Carol actually means “dance” or “a song of praise”. But who were these people praising?

When the Puritans came to power in England in 1647, the celebration of Christmas and singing carols was stopped because of its pagan roots. However, the carols survived as people still sang them in secret. Carols remained mainly unsung until Victorian times, when two men named William Sandys and Davis Gilbert collected lots of old Christmas music from villages in England.

Just like today, most carols from this time period are untrue stories, very loosely based on the Christmas story. One carol like this is ‘The First Noel’. Many believe it is based on Luke 2:8-14 when angels announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds watching over their flock near Bethlehem. The song as it is sung today first appeared in William B. Sandys’s 1833 volume, Christmastide: Its History, Festivities And Carols.

Today we sing that the First Noel was sung “to certain poor shepherds.” Sandys’s version had “three poor shepherds.” In a note, Sandys explains: According to some legends, the number [of shepherds] was four, called Misael, Achael, Cyriacus, and Stephanus, and these, with the names of  three Kings, were used as a charm to cure the biting of serpents, and other venomous reptiles and beasts.

Most of us should already know that Christmas almost certainly did not come “on a cold winter’s night”.  Because the shepherds would not have been out in the fields at night during the cold season of December. Also, it seems from Matthew’s Gospel account that no one had paid much attention to the Star of Bethlehem other than the Magi. (Median priests skilled in astronomy and astrology) Not to mention that I doubt that King Herod would be upset because of only three men who made inquiries as to where they could find the one born king of the Jews!

Other Traditions

Today, many adorn their homes with various herbs, pinecones and colors during Christmastime. Many of these have pagan symbolism. You may not know that Druidic holiday colors are red, green, and white.

Pagans who observe the Winter Solstice suggest that:

  • Family members join together to make or purchase an evergreen wreath with holiday herbs in it and then place it on your front door to symbolize the continuity of life and the wheel of the year.
  • It is traditional during the Winter Solstice to place holly, ivy, evergreen boughs, and pine cones around your home, especially in areas where socializing takes place.
  • Hanging a sprig of mistletoe above a major threshold is used as a charm for good luck throughout the year.
  • If you choose to have a living or a harvested evergreen tree as part of your holiday decorations, call it a Solstice tree and decorate it with Pagan symbols.
  • Decorate the inside and/or outside of your home with electric colored lights. Because of the popularity of five pointed stars as holiday symbols, this is a good time to display a pentagram of blue or white lights.

Santa Claus

Today’s Santa is a folk figure with multicultural roots. He embodies characteristics of Saturn (Roman agricultural god), Cronos (Greek god, also known as Father Time), the Holly King (Celtic god of the dying year), Father Ice/Grandfather Frost (Russian winter god), Thor (Norse sky god who rides the sky in a chariot drawn by goats), Odin/Wotan (Scandinavian/Teutonic All-Father who rides the sky on an eight-legged horse), Frey (Norse fertility god), and the Tomte (a Norse Land Spirit known for giving gifts to children at this time of year). Santa’s reindeer can also be viewed as a form of Herne, the Celtic Horned God.

I am not naive enough to think that anyone will stop singing Christmas carols or stop practicing any of their other Christmas traditions. They have been around for thousands of years and will probably continue until Jesus returns. I only pray that more Christians will reevaluate what they do based solely on God’s Word.

I’m sure that many mistakingly believe that everything that they are doing during Christmastime is in honor of Jesus. But what does the birth of Jesus have to do with lighted evergreen trees or pinecones? Or holly and mistletoe? Or Santa Clause and decorated pentagrams?

I remember when George Harrison’s song, “My Sweet Lord” was popular. Even though they removed the lyrics: “Hare Krishna—Krishna Krishna” at the end of the song, many Christians were singing it in churches around the country as a praise song! Without realizing it, many well intentioned Christians were singing praises to Krishna—one of the classic deities of Hinduism!

“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)

References:

•Campanelli, Pauline & Dan, Wheel of the Year: Living the Magical Life. St. Paul: LLewellyn, 1989, pages 1-16.

•Crim, Keith, editor, The Perennial Dictionary of World Religions. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989, pages 154, 182.

•Ek, Hildur, Jul Tomtar, Jul Bockar and Sheaves of Grain. Lindsborg, KS: Barbos Printing, 1983.

•Farrar, Janet & Stewart, Eight Sabbats for Witches. London: Hale, 1981, chapter 11.

•Funk & Wagnalls, Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1979, pages 229-230, 974-975,

•Royale, Duncan, History of Santa: from 2000 BC to the 20th Century. Fullerton, CA: M. E. Duncan, 1987.

•Scullard, H. H., Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1981. pages 205-212.

Most people never question why they believe certain things or why they practice certain religious traditions. In a world filled with popular customs and traditions, very few seek to understand the origin of those things. People most generally accept common religious practices without question, choosing to do what everyone else does because it’s easy, natural and comfortable—they can go along with the crowd without rocking the boat.

Most follow blindly along as they have been taught, assuming that what they believe and do is right. They never take time to prove what they believe is true. Nowhere is this more true than in the observance of Christmas, Lent, Good Friday, Easter and other supposed Christian holidays.

Many millions keep these days without knowing why—or where they originated from. Most suppose that they are found in the Bible because they see millions of professing Christians observing them. Surely hundreds of millions of people can’t be wrong—Or can they?

Many Christian churches have agreed that the upcoming holiday of Halloween is rooted in paganism and witchcraft, and yet, these same churches have tried to “Christianize” even Halloween by calling the celebration a “Harvest Party”—complete with “more appropriate” costume contests, (No witch or devil costumes) games and bobbing for apples! (If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…)

Here is what Jesus said about the popular customs and traditions of this world: “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!” (Mark 7:6-9 ESV c. Isa 29:13)

The proof is overwhelming that these modern holidays that the churches embrace and promote are “traditions” and “commandments of men.” But vast multitudes keep them anyway, seemingly content to worship God in vain!

Open your Bible and your mind

You must be willing to open your Bible and honestly accept what it says about the holidays of men—and about God’s Holy Days. It has been almost universally taught that the annual Sabbaths and feasts mentioned in the Bible have been done away with—that they were only for ancient Israel, or just for the Jews. Many churches teach that Jesus “nailed them to the cross” along with most everything else in the Old Testament.

The majority of people will strongly defend what they have been taught simply because they have been spoon fed these beliefs in their churches. And believing them to be true, they will read with prejudice anything that contradicts their assumptions—even if it is proven to be false in Scripture.

II Timothy 2:15 commands us to, “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” God expects us to study his Word so that we can act on it.

No matter how comfortable a lifelong practice may be, shouldn’t we base our decision on proof from God’s Word instead of what some man has told us?

Since the Bible condemns these almost universally observed “Christianized” holidays of men, how did they come into popular practice?

The Prophecy of the “Little Horn” that changed everything

Daniel 7 contains an extraordinary prophecy that reveals exactly how the professing Christian world came to celebrate “Christianized” pagan holidays in place of the annual days that God made holy.

When carefully examined and compared to other Scriptures, it becomes clear that Daniel’s vision describes four world-ruling empires as four beasts. Beginning with Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian (Chaldean) Empire, they would span the last 2,500 years preceding Christ’s Return.

Virtually all serious students of Bible prophecy will recognize that the ten-horned fourth beast is the Roman Empire, and the ten horns are its ten historic resurrections. (or revivals) Verse 8 introduces a “little horn” that arises among the ten horns of the Roman Empire.

Here is what Daniel records: “I considered the [ten] horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.”

Verse 20 describes this little horn as one “whose look was more stout than his fellows.” (he looked greater or more important than the others) Those who understand even the most basic elements of Bible prophecy will recognize that this “little horn” is a small kingdom or government that took a prominent position in history within the ten successive resurrections of the Roman Empire.

It is also obvious from the description of this little horn that it is a small but powerful religious hierarchy government associated with and controlling Rome. Because Daniel states, “And he shall speak great words against the most High God, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws.” (Dan.7:25)

For those with eyes to see, God gives tremendous insight into the work of this little religious kingdom. Over the last 2,000 years, only one church fits Daniel’s description. Only one church has continually spoken “against the most High God” by trying to change the LAWS and the TIMES that God has made holy! Only one church has continually persecuted the true Church and saints of God, who have not been willing to compromise his laws and times. And there is only one church that all other denominations are derived from and continue to uphold its doctrines, laws and times of IT”S holidays!

It is time for God’s people to really study and obey his Word, so we can truly be a people separated for God’s own purpose! (Deuteronomy 7:6; 1 Peter 2:9)