In previous studies, we proved the existence of God and showed that He communicates to human beings through the Holy Bible. The Bible shows that God has been working on a plan for a long time, and in another Bible lesson we saw that the seven-day week shows God’s 7,000-year plan. The Bible lesson to come explaining our potential will tell you exactly what God is accomplishing in His plan.
The Church that the Great Lakes Church of God came out of was established by the late Herbert W. Armstrong. You may have heard him years ago on “The World Tomorrow” radio and TV broadcasts. He and his wife kept the Biblical festivals alone for seven years, knowing that they were commanded by God and kept by the original apostles, but not understanding their significance. God led them to comprehend the meaning of the festivals, thus restoring this information to the Church.
Let us see that God’s plan is outlined by the festivals that are described in the Bible.
In Colossians 2:16-17, we see that the festivals and Sabbaths are a shadow of things to come. Since the word “Sabbaths” is plural, it includes the weekly Sabbath as well as the annual Sabbaths, which are the holy days in the Bible. What can we learn about God’s plan from the festivals?
The seven festivals are summarized in Leviticus 23. The date for each festival is given according to the Hebrew calendar, not the calendar used by most of the world. They are to be kept forever. However, Hebrews 9 and 10 teach that the sacrifices that are associated with each festival are no longer to be performed. (The reader might want to do a separate study on this topic. Please feel free to contact us for further information.) The following are the highlights of each festival. It is a beautiful thought that God would give us festivals we could keep as physical human beings that would teach us spiritual lessons.
Read Matthew 26:17-20 and 26-29 about how Christ changed the Passover symbols from the lamb of the Old Testament to bread and wine. This Passover ceremony shows our acceptance of Christ’s shed blood for the remission, or forgiveness, of our sins (verse 28).
If we think about Romans 3:23, we admit that we are all guilty of sinning. Christ is the propitiation, or payment, by His blood (verses 24 to 25). Romans 5:6-11 tells us that we were reconciled to God the Father through the death of Christ. This is possible because “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), and the life of Christ, our Creator, was worth more than the lives of all humans that have ever lived. It is a beautiful thought of God that He would give His only Son to pay the penalty for our sins and reconcile us to Him.
DAYS OF UNLEAVENED BREAD
The Days of Unleavened Bread in the Old Testament were to remind the Israelites that God brought them out of Egypt (Exodus 13:3-10). The apostle Paul wrote about a feast with unleavened bread in 1 Corinthians 5:6-8. That was the Feast of Unleavened Bread, still being kept by New Testament Christians. Paul wrote that during the Days of Unleavened Bread, leaven (yeast or other ingredients to puff up a baked product) spiritually represented malice (desire to harm others). It also represented wickedness (practicing evil). That is, it represented sin. Unleavened bread spiritually represented sincerity (the opposite of hypocrisy) and truth.
We must put sin (spiritual leaven) out of our lives. It is a lifelong process. This is the second step after we accept the Passover sacrifice of Christ to reconcile us to the Father.
After we accept Christ as our Passover Lamb and Savior and we begin to put sin (spiritual leaven) out of our lives, we realize that we need God’s Holy Spirit to accomplish that. On Pentecost (also known as the Feast of Firstfruits and the Feast of Weeks in the Old Testament), the Holy Spirit was first given to the Church as described in Acts 2:1-4. The process that we must go through is listed in Acts 2:38– repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit. Having the Holy Spirit determines whether we are true Christians, as Romans 8:9, 14 tells us. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to put sin out of our lives, and it enables the Church to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God to the world.
This festival is also known as the Feast of Firstfruits. In many parts of the world there is a small spring harvest, the firstfruits, which is followed in the autumn by a much larger harvest. God’s holy days are patterned after the agricultural harvests. We learn from Pentecost that there are firstfruits of God’s plan, as we are told in James 1:18. The prophets of the Old Testament and those who followed in their steps were the firstfruits. God used these people for His purpose. They suffered greatly in order to live His way, record His word, and point the way for us.
These form a foundation for God to carefully build a kingdom. These firstfruits form a government to help establish and rule this kingdom, which is almost ready to burst forth at Christ’s return.
FEAST OF TRUMPETS
What is the greatest event in the Bible that is associated with a trumpet? The return of Jesus Christ! The seventh trumpet is sounded in Revelation 11:15. Christ will then take over the earth and reign forever.
That is not all; read 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17. Christ returns at the sound of a trumpet, the dead in Christ rise from the dead, and the Christians who are still alive are changed into immortal spirit beings.
We often call 1 Corinthians 15 the Resurrection Chapter. In verses 51-52, we read that the resurrection of the dead Christians and the change of the living Christians occurs at the last trumpet.
Revelation 20:4-6 calls this the first resurrection. Those who are in the first resurrection will reign with Christ during the Millennium.
DAY OF ATONEMENT
In Leviticus 16, we read of a ceremony that took place once a year on the Day of Atonement (verses 2 and 29-31). Read verses 7 through 10. Two goats were used in this ceremony. The second is called the “scapegoat” in most translations of the Bible. However, the original Hebrew word is azazel, which is a word for Satan the devil. That goat represented Satan, and it was sent into the wilderness. That was a preview of the time when Satan will be restrained for 1000 years (Revelation 20:1-3).
The Day of Atonement pictures the time when Satan will be restrained, and thus will be unable to deceive the world during the Millennium.
FEAST OF TABERNACLES
The Feast of Tabernacles is also called the Feast of Ingathering in Exodus 23:16. During the Millennium all nations will be gathered to salvation; presently most are not called yet.
Isaiah 66:18 describes that time. As we read in Revelation 20:4-6, after Satan is restrained, the Christians will reign with Christ for 1000 years. This is the Millennium pictured by the Feast of Tabernacles.
LAST GREAT DAY
Up to this point, God has offered His Holy Spirit to a few Old Testament Prophets, the New Testament Church, and the people who will have lived during the Millennium. What about those who lived during the 6000 years before the Millennium but were not called? We will see that the Last Great Day, also called the eighth day of the feast, pictures their chance for salvation.
In John 7:37-39, Christ spoke on a Last Great Day. He talked about a time when anyone could come to Him, which is not the case now (John 6:44). This will change during the Millennium, pictured by the Feast of Tabernacles, and the judgment period after the Millennium, pictured by the Last Great Day. Then everyone will be offered the Holy Spirit which is symbolized by living water.
Revelation 20:11-14 describes the Great White Throne Judgment, which is the second resurrection. The books of the Bible are opened to everyone’s understanding. All will have a period of time to live with this understanding of the Bible, and then they will be judged according to their works.
The dry bones prophesy of Ezekiel 37:1-14 refers to that time. People are resurrected to physical life and given the Holy Spirit.
We now see that those who never understood the Bible or received God’s Holy Spirit will be raised from the dead and given the same chance for salvation that everyone else had. By the end of the Great White Throne Judgment, represented by the Last Great Day, all will have had the opportunity to become members of God’s family.
God demonstrates through His plan for mankind that He is fair, just, and merciful. His festivals show that all people who have ever lived will have their time to truly understand Him and will be given the opportunity for eternal life. That is a beautiful thought that illustrates the awesome love God has for each and every one of us!