Annual Worship Calendar - A Biblically and Historically Based Critique: Is There An Annual Worship Calendar in the Bible?

By COGwriter

In the August 1998 edition of the Worldwide News there were three articles on the Worldwide Church of God's (WCG's) then current teachings, under the Tkach Administration, regarding days of worship. Many statements were made and asserted, but only a few scriptures were cited. (Note: The Tkach WCG differed from the old WCG on this; also the Tkach Administration no longer calls itself the Worldwide Church of God, but now Grace Communion International).

Are what these articles teach truly biblically-based? This paper will quote from the articles and attempt to provide some biblical and historical analysis of the statements quoted.

Towards the end of this article, some of the Church of God, Seventh Day (Denver) objections will also be dealt with.

WCG wrote: We have come to see that the Christian festivals are designed and geared to celebrate the life and saving work of Christ, while the seven annual festivals were designed and geared to celebrate the deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt.[1] Choices about symbols, order of meeting, styles of music and prayer forms, and choices about seasons and days, must be the responsibility of the local congregation under the pastor's guidance within the broad and general guidelines provided by the denomination and the regional offices. [2] A Christian annual worship calendar must...focus on...the incarnation, death, resurrection and return of Jesus Christ. [3]

None of these statements are supported in their respective articles by scripture. The "Christian festivals" are designated by WCG as "Easter and Christmas" [2] (though sometime they are referred to as "Resurrection Sunday" and the "Incarnation" [3]). Many of the symbols commonly associated with Christmas and Easter are of pagan origin and are never mentioned in the New Testament.

The Bible does, however, specifically condemn hot cross buns in conjunction with ancient Easter worship (Jer 7:18-note that the footnote in The Nelson Study Bible, p.1238 identifies that the "cakes for the queen of heaven" are for Ishtar), the religious use of decorated trees (Jer 10:2-4), and eastern sunrise worship (Ezk 8:15-16). When the religious leaders of Jesus' day said there were different ways to honor God regarding one of the commandments, Jesus did not concur,

...you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophecy about you, saying: 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men (Matthew 15:6-9).

Worship on Christmas and Easter was never specifically enjoined in the Bible, so who "designed" these days? Christmas and Easter are of Babylonian origin [4,5]. The Bible warns against following a Babylon led religion (Revelation 17-18). The Babylonia goddess Ishtar (from whence we derive the term Easter) was known by the name Astarte in the Semitic lands [4]. Christmas is essentially the Roman holiday of Saturnalia (which originated in Babylon) with other religious practices added to it [5,6]. To state that they were "designed and geared to celebrate the life and saving work of Christ" is without biblical or historical foundation. The choices of the days and the symbols associated with Christmas and Easter were originally incorporated into professing Christianity "within the broad and general guidelines provided by the denomination" as a political compromise [5,6]. Should this non-biblical practice continue?

Jesus kept the Holy Days from His youth and even until the day He died adulthood:

His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast (Luke 2:41-42).

And He sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat"...When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. Then He said to them, "With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." (Luke 22:8,14-16).

Although there certainly are messages in the annual holy days which are "geared to celebrate the deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt", to state they were "designed" for this is not biblical. The New Testament clearly show the fulfillment of at least two of them points toward Jesus Christ and the Church.

For indeed Christ our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (I Corinthians 5:7,8; NKJ throughout).

Now when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place...And they were are filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:1,4).

It should be noted if the holy days were "nailed to the cross" then Pentecost could not have "fully come". In addition, it appears that even Lot may have kept the Days of Unleavened Bread over 400 years before they are mentioned in the Book of Exodus, "Then he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread" (Genesis 19:3).

What about the other holy days?

The Feast of Trumpets featured a blowing of trumpets (Lev 23:24); there was no biblical proof that it was "designed and geared to celebrate the deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt" as WCG stated.

Jesus Christ is going to come again with a trumpet noise (I Thessalonians 4:16,cf. Revelation 11:15). The Feast of Trumpets points to the return of Jesus Christ; no "traditional Christian" holiday does this. The Day of Atonement originally included a goat killed for a sin offering (Leviticus 16:15) and a goat which is sent "away in the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man" (v. 21). This also sounds nothing like it was "designed and geared to celebrate the deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt".

Jesus Christ died as an actual sin offering (Hebrews 10:4-10)--He died for our sins, the blood of goats cannot actually take away sin (v.4) ; Satan will be bound by an angel and sent into a wilderness (Revelation 20:1-2). Thus, the Day of Atonement points to Jesus Christ and God's plan for Satan.

Jesus kept the Feast of Tabernacles and preached about Himself on the Last Great Day,

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out saying, 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living waters'. (John 7:37-38).

Thus, these holy days are geared towards Jesus Christ and the plan of God.

Since all of the seven annual holy days have New Testament application, it would seem that disregarding the holy days that God commands takes people away from Jesus Christ.

WCG wrote: It was agreed and decided that the Worldwide Church of God will provide increased flexibility in worship by accepting the incorporation of the traditional Christian festivals into its annual worship calendar...A number of U.S. congregations have expressed their desire to celebrate only the Christian festivals and to no longer meet on the seven annual festivals...Celebration of any particular festival is not mandatory for membership, of course, Mr. Tkach continued. [1]

Agreed, it is not mandatory to celebrate any festival to be a member of the Worldwide Church of God. But what about being part of God's people who are spiritual Israel (Romans 9:6-9)?

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them:'The feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts...For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people." (Lev 23:1-2,29; NKJ throughout).

It should be added that incorporating practices associated with pagan worship are condemned in the Bible,

...do not inquire after their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods? I will do likewise'. You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods (Deuteronomy 12:30-31).

Some are condemned for making a pretence of honoring God while continuing in non-biblical worship,

They feared the LORD, yet served their own gods--according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away. To this day they continue practicing the former rituals; they do not fear the LORD, nor do they follow their statutes or their ordinances, or the law or the commandment which the LORD had commanded the children of Jacob...However they did not obey, but they followed their former rituals (II Kings 17:33-34,40).

Are not Christmas and Easter remnants of former non-biblical rituals?

Jesus kept the festivals of Leviticus 23 (Luke 22:7,15, John 7:37). Paul kept the festivals (I Corinthians 5:7,16:8;Acts 18:21,20:6,16, 27:9).

Paul also wrote, "Therefore I urge you, imitate me" (I Corinthians 4:16).

By not meeting for the seven annual festivals, those congregations are not imitating Paul nor following Jesus.

WCG wrote: The fact is, some of our members worship on the annual holy days given to Israel for the wrong reasons: they believe it is a sin not to observe them. Many of these also believe it is a sin to worship during traditional Christian festivals. [2]

Of course many who follow the Bible would believe it is a sin to worship "during traditional Christian festivals". To imply that Christmas or Easter are biblically enjoined upon Christians is not true. Notice that the Bible teaches,

Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they have the right to the tree of life, and may enter the gates of the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murders and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie (Revelation 22:14-15).

If Christmas was to be observed, wouldn't it seem that God would have at least told us what date Jesus was born?

What is sin?

...sin is lawlessness (I John 3:4).

He who says, 'I know Him', and does not keep His commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him (2:4-5).

For the LORD will again rejoice over you for good as He rejoiced over your fathers, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this Book of the Law, and if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 30:9-10).

Although traditions of men say that Jesus condemned the Pharisees for keeping the law, the opposite is true (click here for a related article about the Pharisees). Jesus said to them that "inside you are filled with lawlessness and hypocrisy" (Matthew 23:28b).

Actually, the Pharisees professed that they believed the Bible, but taught that their understandings (hermeneutics in modern terms) were more important than the literal commands in the Bible (Mark 7:8-9). This problem exists even to our day.

WCG wrote: God loves the worship of his people regardless of its cultural flavor and style. Our congregations do not need to have the same songbooks, the same musical instruments, the same style of body movement or even the same days on which we worship in order to united in Christ. [2]

Look at what Paul taught:

Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment (I Corinthians 1:10).

God loves the worship of His people in accordance with the truth,

...the true worshiper will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24).

Cultural differences are acceptable (I Corinthians 9:22) if they do not include false/pagan worship practices (Deuteronomy 12:30-31). In much of the world, it is culturally easier to celebrate Christmas and Easter than it is to celebrate God's holy days. But notice Jesus' words,

Enter in by the narrow gate; for wide is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it (Matthew 7:15).

While most "traditional Christians" are aware that in I Cor 5:7b it teaches that "indeed Christ our Passover, was sacrificed for us", they do not seem to literally observe the verse that follows.

Therefore let us keep the feast, not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (I Corinthians 5:8).

Paul did not provide a "loophole" if it was not culturally convenient. The implication that the subject of the actual days to meet is a "cultural issue" (as opposed to a doctrinal issue) is not correct, nor is it consistent with biblical teachings or practices.

A similar argument was made in the same publication regarding weekly worship services last year [7] ; however, since this has already been discussed in September 25, 1998 issue of The Journal and was available from www.thejournal.org/articles/issue8/thiel.html it will not be discussed further here.

Futhermore, perhaps I should quote from an old document that was probably altered in the 4th century, titled The Life of Polycarp, specifically mentions the  Passover, the Days of Unleavened Bread, and Pentecost. Notice that it shows that the Apostle Paul endorsed keeping them:

In the days of unleavened bread Paul, coming down from Galatia, arrived in Asia, considering the repose among the faithful in Smyrna to be a great refreshment in Christ Jesus after his severe toil, and intending afterwards to depart to Jerusalem. So in Smyrna he went to visit Strataeas, who had been his hearer in Pamphylia, being a son of Eunice the daughter of Lois. These are they of whom he makes mention when writing to Timothy, saying; Of the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois and in thy mother Eunice; whence we find that Strataeas was a brother of Timothy. Paul then, entering his house and gathering together the faithful there, speaks to them concerning the Passover and the Pentecost, reminding them of the New Covenant of the offering of bread and the cup; how that they ought most assuredly to celebrate it during the days of unleavened bread, but to hold fast the new mystery of the Passion and Resurrection. For here the Apostle plainly teaches that we ought neither to keep it outside the season of unleavened bread, as the heretics do, especially the Phrygians...but named the days of unleavened bread, the Passover, and the Pentecost, thus ratifying the Gospel. [8]

Notice that the Apostle Paul was teaching Gentiles to keep these days.

Furthermore, Polycarp himself kept the Days of Unleavened Bread, various "Jewish holidays", and even went to Rome and told the bishop there to keep Passover on the correct day (this is documented in the article Polycarp of Smyrna: The Heretic Fighter). Polycarp is considered to be a saint by Catholics, Orthodox, many Protestants, and those in the genuine Church of God.  Yet of those groups, only the true Church of God continues his practices as far as the Holy Days are concerned.

WCG wrote: The traditional seven annual festivals may be celebrated on the nearest appropriate weekend. [3]

It is good then that Pentecost comes on Sunday, because the Holy Spirit did not appear until that day was "fully come" (Acts 2:1).

Jesus is coming on a day with a trumpet sound (I Thes 4:17), this may not be a weekend. The angel of God will bind Satan at the time God wants (cf. Revelation 20:1-2), which also might not be a weekend. WCG simply seems to be ignoring scripture here.

Futhermore, Genesis 1:14 states,

Then God said, 'Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years'.

The Hebrew term translated as seasons does not mean Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter--it means appointed religious festival seasons [9]. This word is used 2 other times in the Bible [9]: in Leviticus 23:4 where it is followed by the listing of the Holy Days and in Psalm 104:19 which says God "appointed the moon for the seasons"--the Holy Days are marked by the moon (Leviticus 23), whereas Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter are determined by the sun. Since God appointed the moon for the purpose of determining the Holy Day seasons before creating humankind, how can anyone say it is acceptable to change them for convenience or cultural reasons?

Interestingly, the WCG does not say that the "Incarnation" [3] (also known as Christmas [2]) is to be celebrated on a weekend, which seems peculiar since much less is known regarding the precise day of Jesus' birth than which time to celebrate the Feasts of God (cf. Luke 1, Leviticus 23).

On the other hand, it is interesting to note that although the resurrection did occur on a weekend, it did not occur on Sunday [10] (so naming it "Resurrection Sunday" seems peculiar).

Furthermore, in Deuteronomy 4:15-19, God tells the children of Israel He did not let them see Him so they would not have any reason to create any image of Him for worship purposes; similarly does it not make sense that since the Bible does not tell us to celebrate the birth of Christ, nor even give the date, that God does not want us to celebrate it?

Notice that the idea of Jesus being the (Passsover) lamb was determined by God before humans were made, and before Moses:

...but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you (1 Peter 1:19-20).

Additionally, the Apostle Paul seemed to feel that the precise timing of the Feast (of Tabernacles) was important as it caused him to hurry to travel to observe it. Notice what is recorded in the Book of Acts:

19 And he came to Ephesus, and left them there; but he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to stay a longer time with them, he did not consent, 21 but took leave of them, saying, "I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing." And he sailed from Ephesus (Acts 18:19-21).

Church of God, Seventh Day (Denver) Critique)

The Church of God, Seventh Day (Denver) generally teaches against the observance of the biblical holy days, even though it has historically observed Passover on the 14th of Nisan. Notice what its website states:

Do you celebrate the feast days? If not, why not?
The Church of God (Seventh Day) teaches that Christians are not obligated to observe the feast days, the annual Hebrew holy days of Leviticus 23. Here are seven reasons for this position:

(Note for some reason its website does not have dot on the second listed "reason".)

Let's address each of the above "reasons."

First, when confronted by the Sadducees, notice what Jesus did:

Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God..." (Matthew 22:29, NIV).

Whoever wrote CG7's answer above does not understand Genesis chapter one:

Then God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years (Genesis 1:14, NKJV).

The Hebrew term translated as "seasons" in the above is mowed`. Notice the following:

OT:4150
mowed` (mo-ade'); or moed` (mo-ade'); or (feminine) mow` adah (2 Chron 8:13) (mo-aw-daw'); from OT:3259; properly, an appointment, i.e. a fixed time or season; specifically, a festival; conventionally a year; by implication, an assembly (as convened for a definite purpose); technically the congregation; by extension, the place of meeting; also a signal (as appointed beforehand):

KJV - appointed (sign, time), (place of, solemn) assembly, congregation, (set, solemn) feast, (appointed, due) season, solemn (-ity), synogogue, (set) time (appointed). [12]

That same Hebrew word is used four times in Leviticus 23:2 & 4 to designate the Holy Days.

The Bible is clearly endorsing the concept of seasonal and biblical festivals from the creation! Furthermore, notice:

For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).

...the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8).

Notice that Jesus was the Passover Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world. God's Holy Day plan was thus not just for Israel, but intended for all humankind from the beginning of creation!

CG7's reason two: The New Testament Passover (sometimes called "the Lord's Supper") is also ceremonial, yet CG7 and WCG to some degree claim to keep that. Thus, this is a red-herring argument.

CG7's reason three is simply wrong: The biblical holy days were clearly observed in places other than Jerusalem.

John, Polycarp, Melito, Polycrates, and other early Christians all kept them in various cities in Asia Minor. Also, notice that the Bible specifically states:

And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide... (Deut 14:23).

You can read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and it nowhere says that Jerusalem is the only place that God will place His name. The children of Israel did not even observe the holy days in Jerusalem until the time of David as it was still controlled by non-Israelites until then. The Apostle Paul kept Pentecost in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:8); and the faithful in Asia Minor in the second century, for example kept Passover there. Even Roman Catholics admit that the biblical holy days were kept outside of Jerusalem by those who professed Christ (even though John Chrysotum claimed made that false Jerusalem-only argument)--please see the article What Does the Catholic Church Teach About Christmas and the Holy Days?

CG7's reason four: Many aspects of the Old Testament had agricultural frameworks. Until 200 years ago, pretty much the entire world was agriculturally-based. This is a red-herring argument that CG7 has raised.

CG7's reason five: CG7 keeps the Passover based upon the same calendar that it is saying cannot be determined from scripture. Protestants and Catholics, even though they do not as a rule realize it, keep Easter based on a convoluted version of the same calendar.

CG7's reason six: The purpose of observing the Holy Days is to obey God and better understand His plan of salvation. It is because CG7 does not do this that it does not have a proper understanding of many areas of prophecy, including salvation

CG7's reason seven: The observance of the Holy Days does better explain the purpose of Christ's death. The observance does not cast a shadow--it points to what God is doing now and what God will do in the future. The non-obserance of them for invented days (and CG7 has its own version of those) clouds the meaning of the Bible. It is terrible for CG7 to write that the observance of God's commanded Holy Days makes it harder to understand God.

It should be noted that other CG7 groups (such as the one in Meridian Idaho) do keep the biblical holy days. CG7 (Denver), however, is by far the largest CG7 group.

Certain Protestants

Like the old WCG, certain Protestants claim that there is no church calenday in the New Testament. Christianity Today reported:

While Israel's neighbors celebrated the cycle of seasons as shadows of the realm of the gods, Israel celebrated the interventions of God in historical events of judgment and deliverance. The major feasts include Passover, Firstfruits (Pentecost), the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and Tabernacles (Sukkot). In commanding these feasts, God was incorporating them into his unfolding drama, anchored in his promises and their future fulfillment in Christ. Unlike the Old Testament, however, the New Testament does not prescribe a church calendar. (Horton M. Lent—Why Bother? To Lead Us to Christ. Christianity Today, February 10, 2010. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/february/15.55.html)

But the truth is that Jesus, the twelve apostles, the Apostle Paul, Polycarp, and others apparently believed that the "church calendar" in the Old Testament was still binding on Christians. What is perhaps just as bizarre, the above article advocates Lent, which has no biblical authority (Is Lent a Christian Holiday?). Why many Protestants often prefer non-biblical traditions of men over the holy days of the Bible should give them pause to consider their actions.

Colossians 2:16-17 and Galatians 4:8-10

The most common portion of the Bible that I have heard cited as "proof" that the bibical holy days are done away with is Colossian 2:16-17. So, let's examine one slight mistranslation of it:

16 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: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ (Col 2:16-17,KJV).

The above translation is close, however, it added a word that is not in the original Greek.

The word added is "is". Truly literal translation leave it out as it is not in there. Notice the Strong's words for verse 17:

3739. 2076 4639... 3588....... 3195 3588...... 1161 4983 9999 3588 5547
Which are a shadow of things to come; the.. but.. body ....is.... of... Christ.
(Interlinear Transliterated Bible. Copyright (c) 1994 by Biblesoft).

It should be noted that 9999 means that there was no word in the biblical text. It should also be noted that #3588 is most often translated as "the".

Because the same three Strong's words (#4983, 3588, & 5547) are used four other times in the New Testament and in those times the KJV translates it as "the body of Christ" (Romans 7:4; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 4:12)--as does the NKJV.

Therefore, if all the translators were simply consistent with themselves, they would have translated Colossians 2:16-17 to state:

16 Therefore let no man judge YOU in eating and drinking or in respect of a festival or of an observance of the new moon or of a sabbath; 17 for those things are a shadow of the things to come, but the body of Christ.

Or in other word, do not let those outside the body of Christ (the church, Colossians 1:18) judge you regarding holy days, but only the church itself. Colossians 2:16-17 is not saying that the holy days are done away.

It is sad, but most in the Protestant world have misunderstood Colossians 2:16-17 because translators who know better MISTRANSLATED it.

It is poor exegesis (biblical interpretation) to rely on a mistranslation to claim that the holy days are done away with.

Another common objection is to keeping the Holy Days is Galatians 4:8-10. Protestants tend to use this to say that no biblical dates are to be observed, so let's look at that:

8 But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. 9 But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years.

There are two problems with the Protestant argument here.

The first is that the Galatians were Gentiles (although there were apparently some Jews addressed in later verses) and were NOT keeping the biblical Holy Days (plus, there is no way that the Bible would call biblical requirements as "beggarly elements") .

The second is that Catholics/Protestants/Orthodox do observe various days and years (Sunday, Easter, Christmas, New Years), so they should not observe anything if they feel that no religious days are to be observed.

Galatians 4:8-10 is not doing away with the biblical Holy Days.

WCG wrote: Annual worship calendar: Is there only one right to worship God? [2]

This is the title of one of the Tkach Administration WCG articles.

However, the Bible teaches:

There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death (Proverbs 12:12).

Do not learn the way of the Gentiles (Jeremiah 10:2).

And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men...All to well you reject the commandment of God that you may keep your own tradition (Mark 7:7-9).

Christmas and Easter are of pre-Christian origin [5,6], they are not commandments of God; they are ways of the Gentiles which have become traditions of men. No one in the Bible ever is shown to have celebrated Christmas or Easter.

The only scriptural quotes in the Worldwide Church of God articles cited herein are from Romans chapter 14. What is Romans 14 about? Verses 1-4 are about vegetarianism and that even though Christians can eat meat, they should not judge those who do not. Verses 5-12 are about not being judgmental regarding personal fast days. The observance of holy days is not discussed.

Jude warned that,

For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ (Jude 4).

To be licentious means to be "unrestrained by law or morality, lawless...disregarding rules" [13].

Doesn't this suggest that Jude specifically warned that some men will talk about grace as an excuse to disregard God's rules? Might this also include those who want to be "unrestrained" from following God's annual worship calendar?

Interestingly, Paul wrote,

...for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified (Romans 2:13).

Paul, himself, was a holy day doer (I Corinthians 5:7,16:8;Acts 18:21,20:6,16, 27:9), and even stated,

"I must by all means keep this coming feast" (Acts 18:21).

Which are the annual worship days are commanded in the Bible?

Obviously, the biblical holy days.

The Meaning of the World's Holidays vs. the Biblical Holy Days

The main reasons I have heard from Protestants as to why they observe Christmas and Easter is that they believe that God is pleased with them celebrating the birthday of His Son and that the Easter resurrection shows that Jesus overcame sin, thus salvation is available. They essentially say that the pagan practices associated with it are of no consequence since the name of Jesus is mentioned with these holidays. They sometimes say that the commercial and pagan practices associated with them means that those outside of their faith will hear about Jesus and that thus, they are profitable.

However, they miss the overall picture of God's plan of salvation because they do not observe the holy days.

Unlike the calendar of men, God's calendar begins in the Spring of the year.

The first observed event is the Passover. This pictures that we humans are sinful and need to have an atonement for our sins--and that God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son to die for our sins.

It is then we are to put sin and hypocrisy (shown as leaven) out of our lives. We are then to observe the Days of Unleavened Bread where we try to live with sin as God would have us live.

Pentecost is next. Pentecost pictures that this is NOT God's world and that God is NOT trying to save everyone in the age. Protestants have no clue about this which is why they often conform to the practices and politics of this world.

Passover, the Days of Unleavened Bread, and Pentecost had fulfillment's in the New Testament.

We are now in the Church age awaiting the next holy day, the Feast of Trumpets. Trumpets pictures that although God has some people now in the Book of Life, He is going to pour out His wrath on this world as shown with the trumpet blasts of Revelation and that the kingdoms of this world will BECOME the kingdom of Christ. Thus, the world today IS NOT GOD's WORLD. The Protestants miss this point more than they realize.

The next holy day is the Day of Atonement which pictures that Satan will be removed and bound for 1,000 years. Thus it shows that this world is NOW under Satan's influence, but will not be in the future. This helps better explain WHY this world is the way it is and WHY the kingdom of God is needed.

The next holy day is the Feast of Tabernacles. It pictures the millennial reign of Christ on the earth and shows that it will be a time of peace and prosperity. A peace that Protestants still do not grasp (nor do Catholics or Orthodox for that matter).

Tabernacles is immediately followed by the Last Great Day. This Day pictures that God WILL OFFER SALVATION TO ALL WHO EVER LIVED. While some religious people hope this is so, because they do not observe the biblical holy days, they really do not understand how and why God has such a plan of salvation.

And those who observe mankind's holidays instead of God's holy days, simply do not understand the reasons for the world today, the world to come, or how a God of love has a plan that will ultimately result in nearly everyone who ever lived to be saved. Simply observing mankind's holidays obscures this plan and results in people living their lives apart from the plan of God.

Conclusion

Although much more could be said about them, the holy days picture God's plan of salvation.

The seven annual holy days point to Jesus Christ. Notice the following:

Now in like manner, when God gave His Church seven annual Sabbaths, God, in His wisdom, had a great purpose. These days, too, were given to keep God's children in the true memory and worship of God by keeping us constantly in the understanding of God's great plan of redemption. For these annual days picture the different epochs in the plan of spiritual creation mark the dispensations, and picture their meaning…To what extent shall we put away sin? Not partially, but completely! And, as leaven is also a type of sin (I Corinthians 5:8) leaven puffs up, and so does sin and, as seven is God's number symbolizing completeness, we are to follow the Passover with seven days of unleavened bread! The picture the meaning the symbolism, is not complete with Passover alone. Passover pictures the acceptance of Christ's blood for the remission of past sins. It pictures the crucified the dead Christ. Shall we leave Christ symbolically hanging on the cross? The seven days of unleavened bread following Passover picture to us the complete putting away of sin, the keeping of the Commandments after past sins are forgiven...The New Testament Church continued, year after year, to keep this annual Sabbath, Pentecost, as we shall show. And God gave this festival to His people in order to reveal, and to keep them continually informed, that the present dispensation is only the first, preliminary "harvest of souls."

As already explained, God's purpose in giving His Church His annual holy days was to keep His children constantly in true understanding of God's great plan. To accomplish this, God took the yearly material harvest seasons in ancient Israel as the picture of the spiritual harvest of souls. In the Holy Land there are two annual harvests. First, is the spring grain harvest. Second, comes the fall harvest. God intended His holy days to picture to His Church repeatedly year by year the fact that only those He Himself calls during this age can become His begotten children now! And we are merely the firstfruits of the great spiritual harvest!…

This eighth day, technically a separate feast, is called "the last day, that great day of the feast" (John 7:37).

What does this final holy day represent?

Notice what Jesus preached about on that day: "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink . . . out of his belly [innermost being] shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive . . .)" (John 7:37-39).

This was Jesus' sermon giving the meaning of the last great day!

Now turn to Revelation 20. After the Millennium, what happens? A resurrection! The dead stand before God. This couldn't include true Christians today, as they will appear before the judgment seat when Christ returns. It couldn't refer to those converted during the Millennium. They have already inherited the Kingdom during the Millennium, after living out a normal life-span. Those in this resurrection must be those who died in ignorance in past ages! They are not brought to life until after the Millennium (Revelation 20:5).

This is that judgment day mentioned in Matthew 10: 15. It is a time when Gentiles who died in ignorance will be given an opportunity to receive salvation. Ezekiel 16:53-55 makes this very plain. Even those in Israel who died in their sins will be given their first opportunity to understand the truth of God and His way (Ezekiel 37). The prophet wrote that God would pour out His Spirit on those resurrected (verse 14). This is precisely the salvation that Jesus mentioned in His sermon on that great day of the feast in the autumn of AD 30.

This eighth day, which immediately follows the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles, pictures the completion of the plan of redemption. It is just prior to the new heaven and the new earth. All parents and children, young and old will be resurrected. Notice that the "book of life" typifying salvation is opened (Revelation 20:12). Revelation presents the final view of the "judgment day" as the present material heaven and earth are perishing and the faithful are receiving their eternal reward at the throne of Christ. The wicked those who disobey are seen perishing in the lake of fire! What a marvelous plan! All will have an equal opportunity (Armstrong HW. Pagan Holidays--or God’s Holy Days—Which?, booklet 1976).

A major reason that I became part of the old WCG and remain part of the Philadelphia remnant of the Church of God is that in addition to proving all things from the Bible, I truly believe that since "God is love" (1 John 4:16) that He has a plan of salvation that will ultimately result in everyone being called and nearly every one who ever lived being saved. Two must read articles to demonstrate that are Hope of Salvation: How the COGs differ from most Protestants and Universal Salvation? There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis.

Since Christmas and Easter were clearly designed by peoples who had no knowledge that there even would be a savior, how can it be stated by the current WCG that they were designed "to celebrate the life and saving work of Christ"? It is reasonable to conclude that they honor the traditions of men.

Should we set our own "annual worship calendar"?

Who are we to listen to? The word of God or traditions of men?

Since the word of God is profitable for doctrine (I Timothy 3:16), perhaps we should learn from Peter and the other apostles' response to the religious leaders of their day,

We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).

As well as, Jesus who said,

"My brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it" (Luke 8:21).

Will you?

Articles of possible interest may include:

Holy Days
Passover and the Early Church Did the early Christians observe Passover? What did Jesus and Paul teach?
Melito's Homily on the Passover This is one of the earliest Christian writings about the Passover. This also includes what Apollinaris wrote on the Passover as well.
TPM: Passover on the 14th or 15th?
While most in the COGs observe Passover on the 14th, some observe it on the 15th. Why is the 14th correct?
The Night to Be Observed
What is the night to be much observed? When is it? Why do Jews keep Passover twice and emphasize the wrong date?
Should Christians Keep the Days of Unleavened Bread? Do they have any use or meaning now? This article supplies some biblical answers.
UCG and Its Unleavened Bread Study Paper What does the Bible say about eating unleavened bread for seven days? What has UCG officially said about it?
Pentecost: Is it more than Acts 2? More Christians somewhat observe Pentecost. Do they know what it means?
Did Early Christians Observe the Fall Holy Days? Did they? Did Jesus?

The Book of Life and the Feast of Trumpets? Are they related? Is so how? If not, where not?
The Day of Atonement--Its Christian Significance The Jews call it Yom Kippur, Christians "The Day of Atonement". Does it have any relevance for Christians today?
The Feast of Tabernacles: A Time for Christians? Is this pilgrimage holy day still valid? Does it teach anything relevant for today's Christians?
Last Great Day study paper Was Jesus speaking about the 7th or 8th day of the Feast in John 7:37? UCG says the 7th, but what does the Bible teach? This extensive paper reviews UCG's LGD study paper and includes comments as to where it erred.
Hebrew Calendar This John Ogywn writing explains why we in the bulk of the COGs use the calendar that we do and answers such questions as "Did Jesus Observe the Postponements?"
Holy Day Calendar This is a listing of the biblical holy days through 2024, with their Roman calendar dates. They are really hard to observe if you do not know when they occur :) In the Spanish/Español/Castellano language: Calendario de los Días Santos. In Mandarin Chinese: 何日是神的圣日? 这里是一份神的圣日日历从2013年至2024年。.

Holidays
Is January 1st a Date for Christians Celebrate? Historical and biblical answers to this question about the world's New Year's day.
Valentine's Day: Its Real Origins Christianity Today suggests that Valentine's Day is good for Christians to observe. Is this true?
Is Lent a Christian Holiday? When did it originate? What about Ash Wednesday? If you observe them, do you know why?
Why The Church of God Does Not Wear Green on St. Patrick's Day Should non-Catholics observe a Catholic holiday.
What Happened in the Crucifixion Week? How long are three days and three nights? Did Jesus die on "Good Friday"?
Was the resurrection on Sunday? Do you really know?
Did Early Christians Celebrate Easter? If not, when did this happen? What do scholars and the Bible reveal?
Is Halloween Holy Time for Christians? This article provides some historical and biblical insight on this question.
What Does the Catholic Church Teach About Christmas and the Holy Days? Do you know what the Catholic Church says were the original Christian holy days? Was Christmas among them?

References

[1] Tkach J. Ministerial conference: Guidelines include flexibility in worship. Worldwide News. Aug 1998

[2] Dick R, Feazell JM. Annual Worship Calendar: Is there only one right way to worship God? Worldwide News. Aug 1998

[3] Position Paper: Annual Worship Calendar. Worldwide News. Aug 1998

[4] Gelb IJ. Astarte. In Worldbook Encyclopedia. Field Enterprises Education, Chicago, 1965

[5] Hislop A. The Two Babylons. Loizeaux Brothers Inc., Neptune (NJ), Reprint 1959

[6] Sechrist EH. Christmas. In Worldbook Encyclopedia. Field Enterprises Education, Chicago, 1965

[7] Tkach J. Preaching the Gospel on Sunday, Too. Worldwide News, Jul 22, 1997

[8] Pionius. Life of Polycarp, Chapter 2. Translated by J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 3.2, 1889, pp.488-506

[9] Strong J. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Abington, Nashville, 1890, 34th printing 1976.

[10] Armstrong HW. The Resurrection Was Not on Sunday. Worldwide Church of God, Pasadena, 1972

[11] General Conference Church of God (Seventh Day). Frequently " Asked Questions" http://cog7.org/faq.htm 03/29/07.

[12] Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.

[13] Licentious. In Webster's Encyclopedia Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language. Gramercy Books, New York, 1989

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Thiel B. Annual Worship Calendar - A Biblically and Historically Based Critique. www.cogwriter.com (c) 1998, 2000, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009/2010/2011/2012/2014 0823