Are God's Holy Days An Important Sign of True Christians?
Are the Holy Days of the Bible merely spiritual accessories? Or, are the Holy Days vital to
spiritual growth and development? Exodus 31:12-17, Ezekiel 20:10-13, and Malachi 4:4 are
key scriptures relating to this question. Note that the word "sabbaths" is not limited to the
weeklysabbath, but also refers to the annual sabbaths.
Where is the Attack on God's Holy Days Coming From?
Dr. Ernest L. Martin, former Worldwide Church of God minister, has vigorously attacked the Holy Days and the Sabbath since 1974.
The Church of God, 7th Day (Denver), since the 1930s has been the most consistent opponent of the Holy Days. Herbert W. Armstrong was put out of the Salem organization in 1937 ostensibly for two reasons: Holy Day and British Israel teaching. The Church of God, 7th Day, has a 43-page tract entitled, "A Study of the Feast Days Given to Israel: What Should and what should Not Be Observed by Christians Today?" D.L. Prunkard, former Worldwide Church of God minister who worked briefly with the Denver Group, wrote an article in the August 1979 Bible Advocate, entitled, "Should We Keep Israel's Holy Days?" It appears that Prunkard got many of his ideas from Ernest Martin.
Former Worldwide Church members and others in scattered Seventh Day groups, lauded the Prunkard article as instrumental in showing them that the Holy Days are no longer valid. A Vancouver, Washington, lady (Worldwide Church member for 16 years) wrote: "After reading that [article by Prunkard] -- and the applicable scriptures, plus studying what Ernest Martin has on the subject -- I can no longer accept Holy Days -- at least not in the manner and attitude & belief in which they are kept in both Worldwide [Church of God] & International [Church of God]. I'm not totally opposed to Holy Days -- they surely could serve a very good purpose under proper circumstances."
Another individual, an independent Sabbath-keeper from Mt. Vernon, Illinois, said "I can not
associate the weekly Sabbath with the sabbaths of the Mosaic Law. The weekly Sabbath was
given to all people at creation." He said the annual sabbaths were not, and, totally agreed with
Should We Be Able to Answer Anti-Holy Day Arguments?
I Peter 3:15 shows that we should be ready to give an answer -- if asked. Romans 12:2 proves
what the will of God is. Ephesians 5:17, don't be unwise, know God's will, and I Thessalonians
5:21 prove all things.
Christ Freed us From What Bondage?
Galatians 5:1 is a battleground scripture concerning the Holy Days. In his article, Prunkard says that Christ made us free from ceremonial holy day bondage: "Disciples should not place themselves under rigorism or legalistic religion. Paul reacted in Galatians to infiltrating Judaism, which included observance of the annual days of national Israel . . . he heatedly corrected their Judaistic error . . . ."
Galatians 2:4, 4:17-31, 5:1-13, and 6:12-15, show the main issue: circumcision was being forced upon Gentiles, along with the ritualistic additions to the law, 3:19, 24. Which law defines sin? The Ten Commandments and the statutes. Which law was added because of sin? Sacrifices, Jeremiah 7:22-23. Which law was bondage? Peter defined forced circumcision of Gentile converts and compulsory keeping of the sacrificial laws a "yoke of bondage," Acts 15:5,10. Also, the tradition of the Jews was a burden heavy to bear, Matthew 15:1-9, 23:1-4. God's spiritual eternal law, however, is not a grievous burden, I John 5:3, Deuteronomy 30:11 (RSV). This bondage law was being forced upon Gentiles by the Judaizers. Yet those circumcised did not keep the law either, Galatians 6:13. The issue was circumcision, outward show, not holy day keeping. The spiritual law is not bondage, but being forced to be circumcised is bondage.
There was another issue at Galatia. Some Galatians were returning to the pagan worldly customs and days -- which Paul called "elements of the world," Galatians 4:3, 8-11. A common anti-Holy Day argument is to use Galatians 4:9-11to "prove" that Paul wanted the Galatians to quit observing Biblical Holy Days.
Yet, verse 8 clearly shows that "days, and months, and times, and years" of verse 10 were the
customs observed "when ye [Galatians] knew not God" and worshipped idols. At Galatia there
were two extremes: Judaizers who insisted on circumcision as a prerequisite for Gentile converts
contrasted with the "liberal" element who were going to the opposite ways, returning to pagan
days. Paul was concerned with both aberrations.
Is The Book of Leviticus Totally Void Today?
Prunkard says that Leviticus is a manual of law for the priests, having to do with the cleansing, worship, and service of national Israel. It was annulled at Golgotha. He insists that Leviticus was never intended for worldwide obligation, and is not binding on 20th century disciples. "One chapter (23)," he says, "delineating festivals and holy days, cannot be made holy today, ignoring the other 26 chapters as profane and abrogated!"
If Leviticus is void, then unclean meats may be eaten, (chapter 11), blood and fat (chapters7,
17), also we can live with lepers (chapters 13-14), perverted sexual relations and pagan customs
are fine (chapter 18). Idolatry, stealing, lying, blasphemy, talebearing, fornication, dishonoring
parents and elderly, wizardry, and cheating with balances is all right, (chapter 19). Blasphemy
and murder are not sin (chapter 24). One can farm the ground every year (chapter 25).
Sabbaths can be broken (chapter 26). Tithing is not valid (chapter 27). What foolish reasoning!
The Church of God, Seventh Day believes in most of the Leviticus laws, in spite of their anti-Holy
Day bias. Leviticus is a book for us today.
Are Animal Sacrifices and a Tabernacle (Temple) Necessary
to Observe the Holy Days?
Another common argument doesn't hold up under Scriptural investigation. Some, with Prunkard, maintain that because Leviticus 23mentions sacrifices with the Feast Days, sacrifices and Feast Days are inseparable. Numbers 28:1-3, 6, 9-11 destroys this concept. Sacrifices were given every day. There were special sacrifices on the Sabbath, along with special Holy Day sacrifices. The abolishment of the sacrifices did not end the keeping of the Sabbath, Holy Days, nor New Moons.
John 4:19-24 shows that worship of the Father is not limited to a place. Leviticus says nothing
of a place. Deuteronomy 12:21 says observance of the Holy Days is to be local, if the chosen
place is too far. God does not now have a chosen place, since he has rejected Jerusalem for a
time and will yet chose it again. Zechariah 1:17, 2:12.
Why Jesus Kept Festivals and Holy Days? Are They for Israel Only?
Prunkard says that Jesus kept them only for setting an example of obedience to God and because He was a Jew. He holds that it was illegal for Gentiles to keep the Feasts, especially in places other than Jerusalem. Since the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70 and the collapse of the Levitical system, keeping Holy Days is Biblically illegal.
I John 2:1-6 shows that we are to walk as He walked. Exodus 12:47-49 tells us that there is one law for all. God is not divided. He has no double standards. We must all become the spiritual seed of Abraham, Galatians 3:29. All nations, including Egypt, will be forced to keep the Feast of Tabernacles, when Christ returns to rule the world, Zechariah 14:16-19. Neither Prunkard's article nor the tract, "Study of the Feast Days" mentions this scripture.
Hebrews 8:6-13 describes the new covenant, which like the old, will be made with the house of
Israel and the house of Judah. The same lawswill now be written in heart and mind. People want
to be part of the new covenant promises, yet without having to become spiritual Israelites and be
subject to the laws of Israel. It cannot be done! Notice: the fault with the Old Covenant wasn't
the laws, but "them" (verse 8), the people. Seventh Day Church of God followers avoid this
profound truth. Instead, they call the Old Covenant "bondage." God, however, calls it
"glorious," II Corinthians 3:7-11.
Are Holy Days to Be Kept Forever?
Leviticus 23:14, 21, 31, and 41 say the Holy Days are a "statute forever." Yet Prunkard states that "forever" in the Bible is often limited to human lifetime. The Hebrew olam often means "as long as the pertinent circumstances prevail," e.g., in Leviticus 24:2-3, the lamp was to burn continually. Well, the Temple was destroyed, and the lamp is no longer burning. Another example, an Ammonite or Moabite was not to enter the congregation of the LORD forever, Deuteronomy 23:3. "Israel's days were no more permanentthan were the other things demarked by the word olam."
Leviticus 23:4, however, says that the Holy Days are tied to the seasons of the year. These seasons have not yet ceased. The sun and the moon are still giving us the seasons of the year. So the Holy Days are still binding. Verses 14, 21, 31, and 41 say the Holy Days are to last "throughout your generations in all your dwellings." Thus they are not limited to one generation, or one dwelling (Palestine), but around the world, many generations. The generations of Israel have not yet ceased, so neither have the Holy Days. Jerusalem is not the only dwelling place of Israelites, so the Holy Days can be observed elsewhere.
God's covenant was commanded to a thousand generations, Psalm 105:5-8, 10. This is longer
than the nearly 6,000 years of human history. Somehow, according to Prunkard, God cut it short
in A.D. 70, forgetting what He said in Psalm 105.
Are the Holy Days "Holy"?
According to Prunkard the Torah (Law portion of the Old Testament) never refers to the seven annual days as holy. Their holiness had to do with the people, not the time that the nation was commanded to rest. Jesus nowhere referred to them as holy or sacred. Many holy things in the Old Covenant are no longer holy: Temple, altar, sacrifices, priesthood, nation of Israel, vessels, oil, priestly garments, Mount Zion, festivals, and Holy Days. It is not consistent that some things become carnal and profane and not all of them.
It is a good observation that the time itself is not what God emphasizes, but the "holy
convocation," (Leviticus 23) on that day, including the weekly Sabbath, Leviticus 23:2-4.
However, all the Bible is holy, and Nehemiah 8:9, 10, 11, and 10:31 say that the annual sabbaths
are holy. John 19:31 shows that Nisan 15 (Thursday of A.D. 31) was a sabbath day, an high day.
God has never made His sabbaths unholy.
Was Spiritual Salvation Offered Under Old Covenant?
For Prunkard, "Both Old and New Covenants are individual complete packages, totally separate and governable apart from one another. Each was inaugurated at a different time, under different circumstances, for a different purpose. The Old was physical, transitory, and offered no spiritual salvation . . . . There was no justification or spiritual salvation in Moses' Law for national Israel."
If this is true, the Bible should be thrown away. Israel had the same Gospel preached to them as to us, Hebrews 4:2. Israel drank the same spiritual drink as we do, I Corinthians 10:1-4. They ate spiritual meat. Some few were faithful that they might obtain a better resurrection (spiritual salvation), Hebrews 11:35. God's law is perfect, converting the soul, Psalm 19:7. God set before Israel life and death, Deuteronomy 30:19, eternal life or eternal death. As any Bible reader knows, vast portions of the New Testament are quotations from the Old Testament.
Prunkard cites Hebrews 8:13 to show that Moses' Law was totally superseded in Christ. Yet
Hebrews 8:10-12 says the same laws would be written in hearts and minds under the
Does the New Testament Support Festivals and Holy Days?
(1)Acts 12:3, During the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Herod arrested Peter. Prunkard says that this says nothing about Christians keeping the Feast. It certainly does tell us something about Luke, who wrote Acts. He remembered this special occasion.
(2) Acts 12:4, After the Passover Feast (Easter is an incorrect translation of the Greek pascha), Herod would bring Peter out before the people.
(3) Acts 18:21 KJV: "I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem." Prunkard says that this clause is missing from major transcripts, and wasn't in the received text. The truth is that 95% of all Greek manuscripts contain this verse. Note Revelation 22:18-19. If one can't get around a plain verse, the tendency is to reject its inspiration.
(4) Acts 20:6, "And we [Paul's group] sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread . . . ." Prunkard: this is merely a time demarcation, it says nothing about their observing the Holy Days. However, how did Paul and Luke know when the Feast was? They were in Gentile Country, not in Palestine, where almost everyone kept the Holy Days. The Roman World used the same calendar that we have today. Luke wrote Acts to Theophilus, a Gentile of high rank. All those that don't keep the Holy Days do not keep track of when they occur, and those that no longer keep the Holy Days quickly forget when they occur. This also destroys the theory that Jerusalem was the only possible place to observe the Feast Days, as well as the idea that the Feast Days were calculated by observation of the High Priest. There was no time to get the message to Asia that it was the Feast. Paul and Luke must have used the Sacred Calendar. This scripture is one of the strongest proofs that Holy Days are binding.
(5) Acts 20:16 states that Paul hasted to be in Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost. Prunkard says this was merely an opportunity to witness for Christ to the throngs of Old Covenant Jews and to have a reunion with fellow ministers and the Church. Jerusalem, he says, was still the only place to keep the days. There is no mention of a sacred observance of the day of Pentecost. Then Prunkard quoted Acts 21:20-21 where brethren report to Paul that he was accused of teaching all the Jews to forsake the law of Moses, and not to circumcise their children. Thus, Prunkard concludes, Paul did teach against the rites of Moses' law, including festivals and holy days.
Prunkard's Bible must not have Acts 21:24-26where Paul proves the accusation against him was not true. Isn't it strange that Prunkard takes the side of Paul's false accusers? I personally do not celebrate Christmas. There are two valid alternatives for me to act around those who observe Christmas: (1) have nothing whatsoever to do with Christmas, staying away from all its celebrations, OR (2) mix with Christmas worshipers and speak against Christmas. If Paul were against the Holy Days, he would follow one of these two methods. He obviously did not follow (1). There is absolutely no Biblical record that he ever spoke against the Holy Days. If Paul did, his antagonists, the Jewish leaders, would have had much more than the flimsy charge against him that they had. If Paul did teach against the Holy Days, then he lied in Acts 24:14 when he said he believed "all things which are written in the law and in the prophets."
(6) Acts 27:9 reports that the fast (Day of Atonement) was already past. For Prunkard this is merely a calendar demarcation. Again, how did Luke know it was after Atonement if he were not keeping it? Why did he call it the fast when writing to a Gentile? Luke assumed Theophilus knew what day he was referring to. Luke kept that day or he would not have known when it was. So did Theophilus.
(7) I Corinthians 5:7-8. Prunkard: "Christians don't clean out their pantries to become unleavened. Paul told the Corinthians they wereunleavened" by the death of Christ and their acceptance of it. "Let us celebrate the feast" in the Greek is in the continual present tense. Christians are in a continual unleavened bread feast, a perpetual feast.
The truth is, if we keep only a spiritual Feast of Unleavened Bread, why not only a spiritual Passover, a spiritual Sabbath, because we are entered into His rest, Hebrews 4:1-11. Prunkard has no validity for spiritualizing away only the Feast Days. Incidentally, the Church of God, 7th Day, observes the "Lord's Supper" once a year, on Nisan 14. They follow the date from the Old Testament and the Sacred Calendar, which they claim was done away. Why not be consistent?
(8) I Corinthians 16:8, "But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost." Prunkard says that this is merely another time demarcation. The truth is that Paul was keeping Pentecost along with the Gentiles. How would Gentile Corinthians know when Paul was referring to, if they weren't aware when Pentecost was? This is another proof that Gentiles outside of Jerusalem kept Pentecost.
(9) Galatians 4:9-10, why return to the weak and worthless things and be enslaved all over again, observing days and months and seasons and years? Paul feared for them, thinking that his labor might be in vain.
Prunkard says the "days" were Jewish feast or fast days, "months" were new moons, "times" were seasons, as Passover, Pentecost, etc., and "years" were the sabbatical years. Some say these days were pagan observances. However, Prunkard says, this is out of context, because the passage is against Judaizers, those who said you must be circumcised and keep the whole law, Galatians 5:1-3.
The context proves Prunkard wrong! Galatians 4:3, 8 shows that it is referring to the time when the Gentiles were without the knowledge of God, and worshipped idols. How could Paul say not to return to something they had never observed prior to conversion? The Judaizers' teaching was causing some to leave the faith entirely and revert to paganism. God's Word tells us NOT to observe times, Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 18:10, 14. Paul had to repeat this warning to the Gentile Galatians.
(10)Colossians 2:16-17 is the well-known "shadow" passage. These shadows, Prunkard states, are now done away.
What about the weekly Sabbath, which is included? The three-part phrase, "sabbaths, new moons, solemn feasts," as in II Chronicles 8:13, is a common Old Testament phrase, signifying three types of days: weekly Sabbaths, New Moons, and Feasts. Colossians 2:16-17 has to include the weekly Sabbaths. Do away with one, you do away with all. However, Colossians does not say these three types of days are done away. It says to keep them and don't let any man judge you for keeping them.
"Shadow" in Colossians 2:17 is from the Greek word skia, Strong's #4639, meaning "an image cast by an object and representing the form of that object, opposite to soma [#4983 translated 'body', in the same verse], the thing itself," Thayer's Greek Lexicon, page 578. In Hebrews 8:5, and 10:1, Thayer shows that skia means a "sketch, outline, adumbration [faint sketch or imperfect portrayal or representation]."
The Holy Days, New Moons and Sabbaths give a sketchy outline of the Creator's master plan. The reality of that plan is the body of Christ, the Messiah living in His people, the Church. Don't let mortal man say you are wrong for observing Biblical Holy Days. Let the body of the Messiah do the judging. The sacred times are not an end to themselves. They foreshadow things to come in the Master Plan of the Universe.
The earthly Levitical priesthood and tabernacle were a shadow [skia] of heavenly things, Hebrews 8:1-5. The ceremonial sacrificial law was a shadow of good things to come, Hebrews 10:1. The animal sacrifices have indeed ceased because the reality, the sacrifice of the Messiah, has come. However, the shadowy representation of the Feast Days, New Moons, and Sabbaths has not been fulfilled. They are still valid. Indeed, the very shadow of sacrifice for sin is still continued in the annual commemoration of the Master's sacrifice for our sins, the Christian Passover ordinances.
Prunkard says these ten references to Holy Days are the only ones from Acts through Revelation.
Yet he does not quote (neither does the Church of God, 7th Day, tract) the passage in Acts 2:1-2.
After the death of Christ, the disciples were together keeping the day of Pentecost. Why doesn't
the Church of God, Seventh Day, keep Pentecost? If the disciples had failed to keep Pentecost at
the properly appointed time, they would not have received the Holy Spirit. Some today may fail
to receive God's Spirit of power, might, and wisdom because they refuse to keep His appointed
Does John's Gospel Do Away With the Festivals?
John's gospel was written from A.D. 90-95, after the destruction of the Temple. The gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke were written before A.D. 70. Four times John refers to Feasts of the Jews: 2:13, 5:1, 6:4, and 7:2. Prunkard says this usage shows the feasts were Jewish, and not for Gentiles.
However, the "Jewish" feasts at the Temple with sacrifices was what John was referring to. This
type of feast was no longer kept in A.D. 90, so John had to recount history as to what was being
done before the Temple's destruction and the end of animal sacrifices. Most of John's readers
were non-Jews who had never seen Feasts kept at Jerusalem in Temple times. John continued to
keep the Passover on Nisan 14 (as shown in the Ante-Nicean Fathers). Passover and the Holy
Days are not "Jewish."
Is The Dispensation Theory Correct?
Prunkard's article, "Should We Keep Israel's Holy Days?" reveals an anti-law bias (see Jude 3-4). Mr. Prunkard denies the fact that Leviticus 23:1-2 states that the Holy Days and the Sabbath stand or fall together. According to him, there are the contrasting Mosaic and Christian dispensations (periods of time with different promises and laws). The argument says that the Sabbath did not come with Moses, but was instituted at creation for all men for all time. Israel's days were given under Moses to Israel only, for a temporary dispensation.
The truth is that the law is spiritual, Romans 7:14, perfect, Psalm 19:7-8. It lasts forever, Psalm 111:7-8. The added sacrificial laws did not define sin; instead they were ADDED BECAUSE OF sin, Galatians 3:19.
The "dispensation theory" says God has totally dispensed with the statutes, judgments and laws
except the Ten Commandments. The warning of God to such who dispense (do away) with His
laws is found in Revelation 22:18-19. We need to dispense with the false "dispensation theory."
Will You Walk As Messiah Walked?
If Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever, is living in you, He will be keeping the same laws, statutes, judgments that He perfectly observed while He walked this earth as a man. Will you walk as He walked, I John 2:6? If so, you will be keeping all of God's Holy Days.
The most important proof of the validity of the Biblical Holy Days is found by those who keep them. Just as in the observance of the weekly Sabbath, knowing the Truth, and doing it, brings you into contact with your Maker. If you have been convinced that you should observe Biblical Holy Days, then you need to act on your beliefs. You need to keep them in fellowship with others.
In addition, you need to grow in your understanding of the Holy Days. As the African conservationist Baba Dioum said, "For in the end, we conserve only what we love. We love only what we understand. We understand only what we are taught."
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