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Bible Correspondence Course - Lesson 23
Bible Correspondence Course - Lesson 23
Why Christians Should keep

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 reenacted 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 Jews!

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"!