Are We to Keep the Feasts That
Pointed to Christ?
Present Truth for Today - Are the Jewish Feast Days Included? Part I
By Lawrence Nelson
From II Peter 1:12, we read: “Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know [them], and be established in the present truth.” The Bible clearly teaches that during the existence of our world, God at certain times has given a present truth for a particular generation. If such present truth were heeded and obeyed, it meant their salvation. On the other hand, to neglect and disobey resulted in their destruction.
There have always been some truths that are applicable in every age and are therefore to be preached and accepted by God’s children at all times—such as love, hope, repentance, obedience, thankfulness, and praise. Such truths are always in season, but when God sees a special need for a particular generation, He gives a present truth that must be obeyed to obtain salvation.
For example, in the days of Noah, God gave an urgent message of present truth. “And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher wood.” Genesis 6:13, 14. No doubt many were lost in the flood that had a normal faith in God but did not heed or obey the present truth of a coming flood.
The prophet Jonah was given a present truth to deliver to the people living in the city of Nineveh. “So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. … And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” Jonah 3:3, 4. But notice how different was the response from that of the antediluvians. “So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.” “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did [it] not.” Jonah 3: 5, 10.
John the Baptist was called by God to preach to the Jews that the Messiah had come to Israel as promised. But they rejected this present truth, for we read, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” John 1:11. The tragic results are recorded in the words of Christ, “And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things [which belong] unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.” Luke 19:41, 42. “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” Matthew 23:38.
Today, in this end time, God has given a final present truth in His warning message found in the Book of Revelation 14:7–10: “Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” “Babylon is fallen, is fallen.” “If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive [his] mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God.” All our energies should now be focused on this present truth. Its acceptance or rejection means the difference between life or death. This is why Satan is putting forth tremendous efforts to ensnare God’s remnant to spend their precious time on needless concerns about past requirements of God that have nothing to do with God’s end-time present truth.
Ellen White sums up this tragedy by stating, “Our people need to understand the oracles of God; they need to have a systematic knowledge of the principles of revealed truth, which will fit them for what is coming upon the earth and prevent them from being carried about by every wind of doctrine.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 273. It is thus that the devil is hoping to sidetrack the saints, so they will fail to give God’s final warning message of present truth, and lack the proper preparation for the coming crisis.
A careful study of God’s Word will reveal that there are four different categories of law found in the Bible: the moral law, the ceremonial law, the civil law, and the health laws. The Scriptures teach that one of these laws was abolished when Jesus was crucified. As we read the following biblical texts, we will discover which of these laws were done away with at the cross.
In Ephesians 2:15, we read: “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, [even] the law of commandments [contained] in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, [so] making peace.” Some clues are given in Colossians 2:14: “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” Please take note that both these Scriptures refer to laws called ordinances that were abolished, nailed to the cross and blotted out.
This brings us to question, Which of these four law categories deal with ordinances? The Bible gives the answer. We read of the Passover in Exodus 12:14, 43: “And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.” “And the Lord said unto Moses and Aaron, This [is] the ordinance of the Passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof.” In these verses, the Passover feast is called an ordinance. This feast was therefore to be done away with.
The feast that followed the Passover was called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. In Exodus 12:17 and 13:10 we are told, “And ye shall observe [the feast of] unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever.” “Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in his season from year to year.” Since this Feast of Unleavened Bread is also called an ordinance, it too was to be done away with.
Furthermore, we read in II Chronicles 2:4 of other ordinances involving certain sabbaths, new moons, and solemn feasts of the Lord which are also called ordinances. King Solomon is speaking: “Behold, I build an house to the name of the Lord my God, to dedicate [it] to him, [and] to burn before him sweet incense, and for the continual showbread, and for the burnt offerings morning and evening, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts of the Lord our God. This [is an ordinance] for ever to Israel.”
Reading further on in II Chronicles 8:12, 13, we are given the names of some of these solemn feast days. “Then Solomon offered burnt offerings unto the Lord on the altar of the Lord, which he had built before the porch, Even after a certain rate every day, offering according to the commandment of Moses, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts, three times in the year, [even] in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles.” This Scripture clearly identifies that the solemn feasts were called ordinances; therefore, they were all nailed to the cross, having been abolished by the death of Christ.
We must not overlook the additional fact that these feast days were not to be kept by today’s Christians, for animal sacrifices were an integral part of these ceremonies, and such animal sacrifices pointed to the Lamb of God who was to die on Calvary. God has made it very clear that animal sacrifices and ordinances (or feast days) all ended, when in the earthly sanctuary service the veil of the temple was rent in twain from top to bottom, as we read in Matthew 27:51. No Christian in our day who truly believes in the salvation brought by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross will keep the ceremonial laws of the feasts and sacrifices.
The Spirit of Prophecy confirms that God will never again accept such worship. Mrs. White states: “The rending of the vail [sic] of the temple showed that the Jewish sacrifices and ordinances would no longer be received.” Spiritual Gifts, vol. 1, 170.
The following quotation also settles this fact once and for all: “The entire plan of sacrificial worship was a foreshadowing of the Saviour’s death to redeem the world. There would be no efficacy of these offerings when the great event toward which they had pointed for ages was consummated.
“Since the whole ritual economy was symbolical of Christ, it had no value apart from Him. When the Jews sealed their rejection of Christ by delivering Him to death, they rejected all that gave significance to the temple and its services. Its sacredness had departed. It was doomed to destruction. From that day sacrificial offerings and the service connected with them were meaningless. Like the offerings of Cain they did not express faith in the Saviour. In putting Christ to death, the Jews virtually destroyed their temple. When Christ was crucified, the inner veil of the temple was rent in twain from top to bottom, signifying that the great final sacrifice had been made, and that the system of sacrificial offerings was forever at an end.” The Desire of Ages, 165. [Emphasis added.]
To make this absolutely clear, we read further that this not only included animal sacrifices but the feast-day ordinances that were connected with them. “Through Christ the hidden glory of the holy of holies was to stand revealed. He had suffered death for every man, and by this offering the sons of men were to become the sons of God. . . . The mercy seat, upon which the glory of God rested in the holiest of all, is opened to all who accept Christ as the propitiation for sin, and through its medium, they are brought into fellowship with God. The veil is rent, the partition walls broken down, the handwriting of ordinances canceled. By virtue of His blood the enmity is abolished.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, 1109.
Mrs. White also wrote, “The people whom God had called to be the pillar and ground of the truth had become representatives of Satan. They were doing the work that he desired them to do, taking a course to misrepresent the character of God, and cause the world to look upon Him as a tyrant. The very priests who ministered in the temple had lost sight of the significance of the service they performed. They had ceased to look beyond the symbol to the thing signified. In presenting the sacrificial offerings they were as actors in a play. The ordinances which God Himself had appointed were made the means of blinding the mind and hardening the heart. God could do no more for man through these channels. The whole system must be swept away.” The Desire of Ages, 36.
Paul and The Ceremonial Law
Then we read, from The Signs of the Times, July 29, 1886, “Hence the ceremonial law ceased to be a force at the death of Christ.”
There are those who would still argue that Paul kept the feast days and taught that we must do likewise. However, the servant of the Lord clearly explains the nature of Paul’s preaching to the Jews, for she states of Paul, “When he had given many discourses upon these subjects, he testified that the Messiah had indeed come, and then preached the simple gospel of Jesus Christ. This was the craft which Paul mentions, saying that he caught them with guile. He thus tried to allay prejudice, and win souls to the truth. He refrained from urging upon the Jews the fact that the ceremonial laws were no longer of any force. He cautioned Timothy to remove any occasion for them to reject his labors. He complied with their rules and ordinances as far as was consistent with his mission to the Gentiles. He would not mislead the Jews nor practice deception upon them; but he waived his personal feelings, for the truth’s sake.” Sketches From the Life of Paul, 161.
“The ceremonial law was given by Christ. Even after it was no longer to be observed, Paul presented it before the Jews in its true position and value, showing its place in the plan of redemption and its relation to the work of Christ.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 367.
From The Signs of the Times, February 28, 1884, we read: “Circumcision and a strict observance of the ceremonial law had been the conditions upon which Gentiles could be admitted to the congregation of Israel; but these distinctions were to be abolished by the gospel.”
Ellen White further states of Christ, “He has swept away every ceremony of the ancient type. He has given no liberty to restore these rites, or to substitute anything that will recall the old literal sacrifices.” Review and Herald, February 25, 1896. [Emphasis added.] Nothing could be more plain!
It is no wonder that Paul tells us in Colossians 2:14–17 that these ceremonial feast days were all nailed to the cross: “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; [And] having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath [days]: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body [is] of Christ.”
In this Scripture, Paul is urging all Christians to not be concerned with these past feast days which were called holydays, for by his actual words in the original Greek, the word holydays means a festival or a solemn feast. This does not have reference to the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, but to the yearly sabbaths that were appointed on different days of the week each year.
Paul spent much of his time in preaching to dispel the Jewish teaching that the solemn feasts were still to be continued. It is no wonder that Paul spoke in no uncertain words, as we read in Galatians 4:9–11, “But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.” Did you notice the words days, months, times, and years? This is referring to the ceremonial sabbaths, the new moons, the festivals and their appointed feasts. Paul is actually questioning whether or not he had labored in vain to prove to the Christians that Christ had fulfilled all these ceremonies.
Type Met Antitype
Let us take a closer look at Ephesians 2:15: “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, [even] the law of commandments [contained] in ordinances . ...” Concerning this verse, Mrs. White wrote, “There is a law which was abolished, which Christ ‘took out of the way, nailing it to His cross.’ [Colossians 2:14.] Paul calls it ‘the law of commandments contained in ordinances.’ [Ephesians 2:15.] This ceremonial law, given by God through Moses, with its sacrifices and ordinances, was to be binding upon the Hebrews until type met antitype in the death of Christ as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. Then all the sacrificial offerings and services were to be abolished. Paul and the other apostles labored to show this, and resolutely withstood those Judaizing teachers who declared that Christians should observe the ceremonial law.” The Signs of the Times, September 4, 1884.
In Galatians 5:4, Paul made it very clear that we are fallen from grace and removed from Christ if we obey these ordinances: “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” I trust by now that you can see how serious it is to continue to observe these Jewish ceremonies that have met their fulfillment in Christ.
Those who persist in keeping the feast days are denying that Christ came to earth and died at the appointed time in a.d. 27 and are not accepting what is given in God’s Word and the Spirit of Prophecy. How can any Seventh-day Adventist today, who claims to have the faith of Jesus as we read in Revelation 14:12, deny our precious Saviour by keeping feast days, which by their very purpose showed that Christ had not yet come the first time?
To be continued …
Continued (Part 2)
Present Truth for Today—Are the Jewish Feast Days Included? Part II
By Lawrence Nelson
There have always been some truths that are applicable in every age and are therefore to be preached and accepted by God’s children at all times—such as love, hope, repentance, obedience, thankfulness, and praise. Such truths are always in season.
But those who persist in keeping the feast days are denying that Christ came to earth and died at the appointed time in a.d. 31 and are not accepting what is given in God’s Word and the Spirit of Prophecy. How can any Seventh-day Adventist today, who claims to have the faith of Jesus as we read in Revelation 14:12, deny our precious Saviour by keeping feast days, which by their very purpose showed that Christ had not yet come the first time?
The Lord’s Supper
The Passover, with its feast of unleavened bread, was fulfilled; for we read in 1 Corinthians 5:7 that Jesus, our Passover, was crucified for us. The unleavened bread was the offering of Christ’s sinless life, for He said, “I am the Bread of life.” John 6:35. The slain lamb, the unleavened bread, the sheaf of the first fruits represented our Saviour’s death, His sinless life, and resurrection.
As Christians, we now celebrate the Lord’s Supper, which Christ instituted in the place of the Passover. Jesus said, “As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come.” 1 Corinthians 11:26.
In the Review and Herald, May 31, 1898, we read: “In instituting the sacramental service to take the place of the Passover, Christ left for his church a memorial of his great sacrifice for man. ‘This do,’ he said, ‘in remembrance of me.’ [Luke 22:19.] This was the point of transition between two economies and their two great festivals. The one was to close forever; the other, which he had just established, was to take its place, and to continue through all time as the memorial of his death.”
“This ordinance [feet-washing] does not speak so largely to man’s intellectual capacity as to his heart. His moral and spiritual nature needs it. If His disciples had not needed this, it would not have been left for them as Christ’s last established ordinance in connection with, and including, the last supper. It was Christ’s desire to leave to his disciples an ordinance that would do for them the very thing they needed,—that would serve to disentangle them from the rites and ceremonies which they had hitherto engaged in as essential, and which the reception of the gospel made no longer of any force. To continue these rites would be an insult to Jehovah.” Ibid., June 14, 1898. Nothing could be spoken more clearly.
Now, let us consider the Feast of Weeks called The Pentecost. This was fulfilled 50 days following the Last Supper. It was known as the celebration of the wheat harvest, made possible by the early rains, which provided the harvests at Pentecost. It was at this time that the Holy Spirit descended with mighty power upon the disciples.
Pentecost, called also the Feast of Weeks or Feast of Harvest, was a time of gratitude to God for the harvest. “As an expression of gratitude for the grain prepared as food, two loaves baked with leaven were presented before God.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 540. Pentecost occupied but one day, which was devoted to religious service. The feasts of the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Feast of Harvest or Pentecost occurred during the spring of the year. All these feasts pointed forward to events connected with the redemption provided by Christ at the time of the first advent.
After Pentecost came the Feast of Trumpets. This feast took place ten days before the Day of Atonement. The fall feasts represent events before and after the Second Advent. The three fall feasts were the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles.
Day of Atonement
Next came the Day of Atonement. Its fulfillment is in progress today. To keep this feast day is to deny that Christ is in the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary making atonement for our sins. The keeping of this feast day would make it impossible for us to benefit from His work in the heavenly sanctuary. This is not the time to be concerned with Jewish feast days of the past.
Ellen White clearly emphasized that preparation for the atonement is the present truth of this hour: “We are in the great day of atonement, and the sacred work of Christ for the people of God that is going on at the present time in the heavenly sanctuary should be our constant study. We should teach our children what the typical Day of Atonement signified and that it was a special season of great humiliation and confession of sins before God. The antitypical day of atonement is to be of the same character. Everyone who teaches the truth by precept and example will give the trumpet a certain sound. You need ever to cultivate spirituality, because it is not natural for you to be heavenly-minded. The great work is before us of leading the people away from worldly customs and practices, up higher and higher, to spirituality, piety, and earnest work for God. It is your work to proclaim the message of the third angel, to sound the last note of warning to the world.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 520.
“Will our churches humble themselves before the Lord in this day of atonement? Will they put away the sins which defile their garments of character, and separate them from God? The present is our day of visitation. Look not to a future, more convenient season, when the cross to be lifted will be less heavy, when the inclinations of the carnal heart will be subdued with less effort. ‘Today,’ saith the Spirit of God, ‘if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart.’ [Hebrews 3:7, 8.] Today go about the work, else you may be one day too late. The impression that you have now may not be as strong tomorrow. Satan’s snare may close about you. The candlestick may be moved out of its place, and you left in darkness. ‘See that you refuse not him that speaketh.’ [Hebrews 12:25.] Says the true Witness, ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock.’ [Revelation 3:20.] Every warning, reproof, and entreaty in the word of God, or through his delegated messengers, is a knock at the door of the heart; it is the voice of Jesus, asking for entrance. With every knock unheeded, your determination to open becomes weaker and weaker. If the voice of Jesus is not heeded at once, it becomes confused in the mind with a multitude of other voices, the world’s care and business engross the attention, and conviction dies away. The heart becomes less impressible, and lapses into a perilous unconsciousness of the shortness of time, and of the great eternity beyond. The heavenly Guest is standing at your door, while you are piling up obstructions to bar his entrance. Jesus is knocking through the prosperity he gives you. He loads you with blessings to test your fidelity, that they may flow out from you to others. Will you permit your selfishness to triumph? Will you squander God’s talents, and lose your soul through idolatrous love of the blessings he has given?” Review and Herald, November 2, 1886.
“This is our washing and ironing time—the time when we are to cleanse our robes of character in the blood of the Lamb. John says, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). . . . Shall we not let our sin go? . . .
“I entreat you, brethren and sisters, to labor earnestly to secure the crown of everlasting life. The reward will be worth the conflict, worth the effort. . . . In the race in which we are running, everyone may receive the reward offered―a crown of everlasting life. I [Ellen White] want this crown; I mean by God’s help to have it. I mean to hold fast to the truth, that I may see the King in His beauty.” In Heavenly Places, 356.
Feast of Tabernacles
Let us consider the last feast of the Jewish year, which was called the Feast of Tabernacles. Here we must again ask a very important question: Have the prophetic requirements of this Feast of Tabernacles been fulfilled for God’s people today? The answer is, No.
The purpose of this feast for Israel of old was to bring to memory how God had delivered them from the Egyptian bondage and by His loving care had protected and brought them to the Promised Land. This is why they were commanded to go to Jerusalem, at the close of each Jewish year, and abide in temporary shelters made from the branches of trees. During this feast, they were to celebrate. The Day of Atonement had been completed; all of their past sins had been carried away out of the sanctuary into the wilderness by the scapegoat.
For us who are living in the end-time, we cannot celebrate this Feast of Tabernacles, for our Day of Atonement is still in progress. Our past sins have not been blotted out of the heavenly sanctuary, as of yet. Furthermore, we have not reached the Promised Land and entered into the heavenly New Jerusalem where we shall abide in temporary homes until we are finally restored to the earth made new, there to build houses and inhabit them. (Isaiah 65:21.)
In reference to these facts, the Spirit of Prophecy encourages the people of God today to hold and to attend camp meetings. At these gatherings, a rehearsing of how God has led in the development of His church is to be given. In addition, studies should be given, as the end draws near, on how to meet the final test and be ready to see Jesus. By such suggestions, Ellen White is not telling us to keep the feast days, but that our camp meetings should become presentations filled with glorious truths of the Second Coming of our Saviour that will bring to an end our wandering in this sin-cursed world.
She further states in the Review and Herald, January 9, 1883, “The opinion is widely held, that the sacrifices and offerings of the Hebrews possess no significance for Christians, and can be of no interest to them. This opinion is without foundation. It is true that the ceremonies of the Mosaic law are not now to be observed; but, when rightly understood, they are seen to be all aglow with sacred and important truths. These rites, appointed by Jehovah himself, were like so many beacons to light up the path of God’s ancient people, and to direct their minds to the great sacrifice to be offered for the sins of men. Viewed in the light of the cross, they contain most precious lessons for the people of God today.”
This is what Ellen White had in mind when she spoke of camp meetings in the Review and Herald, November 17, 1885. “Well would it be for us to have a feast of tabernacles, a joyous commemoration of the blessings of God to us as a people. As the children of Israel celebrated the deliverance that God wrought for their fathers, and his miraculous preservation of them during their journeyings from Egypt to the Promised Land, so should the people of God at the present time gratefully call to mind the various ways He has devised to bring them out from the world, out from the darkness of error, into the precious light of truth. . . . We should gratefully regard the old way-marks, and refresh our souls with memories of the loving-kindness of our gracious Benefactor.”
Several years later, Mrs. White wrote: “The forces of the enemies are strengthening, and as a people we are misrepresented; but shall we not gather our forces together, and come up to the feast of tabernacles? Let us not treat this matter as one of little importance, but let the army of the Lord be on the ground to represent the work and cause of God in Australia. Let no one plead an excuse at such a time. One of the reasons why we have appointed the camp meeting to be held at Melbourne, is that we desire the people of that vicinity to become acquainted with our doctrines and works. We want them to know what we are, and what we believe. Let everyone pray, and make God his trust. Those who are barricaded with prejudice must hear the warning message for this time. We must find our way to the hearts of the people. Therefore, come to the camp meeting, even though you have to make a sacrifice to do so, and the Lord will bless your efforts to honor his cause and advance his work.” The Bible Echo, December 8, 1893.
There is no doubt as to the conclusion as we read from Manuscript Releases, vol. 18, 270: “Will you listen to the voice of Christ? Will you break away from self and respond, ‘We come, Lord, we come. With joy shall we draw water out of the wells of salvation’? Then shall your life henceforth be a continual Feast of Tabernacles, a continual thank offering for unnumbered and unmerited blessings.”
Finally, let us ever keep in mind, “The people whom God had called to be the pillar and ground of the truth had become representatives of Satan. They were doing the work that he desired them to do, taking a course to misrepresent the character of God, and cause the world to look upon Him as a tyrant. The very priests who ministered in the temple had lost sight of the significance of the service they performed. They had ceased to look beyond the symbol to the thing signified. In presenting the sacrificial offerings they were as actors in a play. The ordinances which God Himself had appointed were made the means of blinding the mind and hardening the heart. God could do no more for man through these channels. The whole system must be swept away.” The Desire of Ages, 36.
So, let us fill our minds with present truth. May we not be ensnared by the great deceiver and become so involved with past Old Testament feast days that we shall fail to meet heaven’s requirements for the final atonement and to give the last warning message of present truth—the Three Angels’ Messages.
For over 60 years Pastor Lawrence Nelson served as an evangelist and minister for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Of that time, he served 13 years as the director of evangelism for youth at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Upon retirement from the General Conference, he continued to pastor, but when, as a result of his stand for truth, he was denied the opportunity to continue his pastorate, he started Keep the Faith Audio Tape Ministry, recording his sermons and making them available to individuals. Before his retirement from this ministry in 2004, over 18,000 audiotapes were being sent around the world each month.