|Just as it keeps the weekly Sabbath, the
Church of God also observes the annual holy days that were ordered by God,
kept by the ancient Israelites and continued by the early New Testament
Christians. These seven annual "appointed feasts" picture God's plan of
salvation for man.
The annual holy days are named the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day. These days occur on specific dates of the current Hebrew calendar, with the exception of Pentecost which is counted in a biblically prescribed manner. Like the weekly Sabbath, each is reckoned from sunset to sunset.
The functions of these annual holy days are partly the same; those of the weekly Sabbath. The primary importance of the festivals is their function as spiritual symbols, outlining God's plan of salvation for the individual and the world. These days include religious instruction and worship which provide for spiritual renewal on a regular basis.
The holy days serve as spiritual, psychological and social high points of the year. They allow people to get together in an atmosphere of leisure and enjoyment. In addition, these days provide opportunity to rest physically. Psychologically, the human need for change of pace and a time to forget the ordinary concerns of day-to-day life is met by these periodic festivals. However, the central concern of these days is spiritual. Supplementing the weekly Sabbath services, there is still a need for intensive concentration on spiritual matters over a period of days without the distraction of the normal routine of making a living. The spring and autumn festival seasons supply this, especially the Feast of Tabernacles which is customarily held only in a few central locations.
The holy days fulfill the spiritual objective of being holy convocations for the Church today. They also are "shadows of things to come" pointing to and outlining the substance of God's great plan of salvation for all mankind. This is briefly summarized as follows:
The Passover represents the sacrifice of Christ which pays for the sins of all who repent and accept it in faith. It also represents partaking of eternal life through Jesus Christ (shown by the bread and wine which symbolize His body and blood). The Feast of Unleavened Bread is symbolic of the continual removing of sin from the spiritual sphere of one's life and the continual practicing of a new godly way of life, represented by Christ, who was unleavened, that is, without sin.
Pentecost pictures both the foundation of this New Testament Church and the sending of the Holy Spirit for the individual. The Feast of Trumpets symbolizes the spreading of the gospel to the world like the trumpet call of a watchman; it also shows the return of Jesus Christ to set up the Kingdom of God on earth. The Day of Atonement, a solemn day of fasting and self-searching represents the time when sin shall be placed upon the head of its ultimate source, Satan the devil. The removal of the cause of evil allows God's Kingdom to hold unopposed rulership over mankind. The Feast of Tabernacles is symbolic of the millennial rule of God through Jesus Christ and His saints. It shall be followed by an opportunity for salvation for all who have lived and died and were not previously called to have a part in the first resurrection—this is the meaning behind the Last Great Day. The culmination shall be the new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21), in which all creation shall be renewed in preparation for the humanly unfathomable eternity on beyond.
The functions of the annual holy days are partly the same as those of the weekly Sabbath. They provide physical rest from the regular routine. Yet there are a number of differences on the purely physical plane of observance. The annual festival periods provide high points of the year as social occasions on which to see friends and relatives and during which one can have the means and the leisure to enjoy good food and recreation.
Psychologically, the annual festivals usually allow a more lengthy break from regular routine than does the weekly rest day. They are something to look forward to. They provide the occasion for doing things as a family unit. While they differ somewhat from the traditional modern holiday or vacation, their psychological function is very similar, especially for those who do not have other vacation periods during the year.
One of the major differences of the annual festivals from the weekly Sabbath is that Church members are enjoined to follow the biblical injunction of Deuteronomy 14:22-26, and set aside up to one tenth (or tithe) of their income in a special fund for use in celebrating these days. This provides the opportunity for the enjoyment of extra-special food and drink. During the non-holy days of a festival, suitable recreation is also encouraged, especially for the family unit. A special offering is taken on the annual Sabbaths in accord with Deuteronomy 16:16-17.
In addition to regular church services on each of the annual holy days, the following festivals have their own special observances.
Along with the weekly Sabbath, these festivals place worship and service of God at the forefront of the minds of Church members. Rather than taking over former heathen celebrations which have been syncretized with Christian observance or making up celebrations without any precedent, the real human need of regular festive celebrations is met by age-old, God-ordained observances clearly attested in the Bible itself. The days carry a symbolic teaching which looks forward as well as backward and places God squarely in the center—the focus of its range of vision.Millennium
The Old Testament prophets looked forward to the rule of God's Kingdom on the earth (a time identified as the 1,000 year rule of Christ described in Revelation 20). Some of these prophets describe holy day observance in several passages.
One of these passages is Ezekiel 40-48, in which an eschatological temple is pictured in detail. Along with the weekly Sabbath (described under Sabbath), the annual festivals are referred to in a general way in several verses (45:17; 46:9,11). The Passover and Feast of unleavened Bread and the Feast of Tabernacles are named specifically (45:21-25) as being kept in the prophetic Kingdom of God. Zechariah 14:16-19 pictures a time when all nations shall come up to Jerusalem to worship at the Feast of Tabernacles. Those who refuse shall be punished by natural disaster until they repent and worship as God desires. This demonstrates that the annual festivals of God are not restricted to Israel but rather are designed for the entirety of mankind.