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About the United Church of God
FREE Booklet: This is the United Church of God
The Festival of Tabernacles
God's Holy Day Plan
Members of Council of Elders
WHO WE ARE
The literature on this site is published by the United Church of God, an International Association, which has ministers and local congregations in the United States and many countries around the world. We trace our origins to the Church that Jesus founded in the early first century. We follow the same teachings, doctrines and practices established then. Our commission is to proclaim the gospel of the coming Kingdom of God to all the world as a witness and teach all nations to observe what Christ commanded (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20).
The United Church of God, today active with congregations in more than 40 countries, began as a formal assembly in 1995. Doctrinal distinctives of the Church include the observance of a seventh-day Sabbath, a modern application of the ancient Hebrew Holy Day seasons (which Jesus also kept and which the Church believes are a literal representation of God's plan for humanity) and a firm belief that Jesus Christ will return to earth to institute a benevolent, world-encircling Kingdom of God. Read more...
The mission of the Church of God is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God in all the world, make disciples in all nations and care for those disciples.
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Jesus Christ said, "Freely you have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:8). The United Church of God offers the publications on this site (and by mail) free of charge. We are grateful for the generous tithes and offerings of the members of the church and other supporters, who voluntarily contribute to support this work. We do not solicit the general public for funds. However, contributions to help us share this message of hope with others are welcomed. All funds are audited annually by an independent accounting firm.
PERSONAL COUNSEL AVAILABLE
Jesus commanded His followers to feed His sheep (John 21:15-17). To fulfill this command, the United Church of God has congregations around the world. In these congregations believers assemble to be instructed from the Scriptures and to fellowship. The United Church of God is committed to understanding and practicing New Testament Christianity. We desire to share God's way of life with those who earnestly seek to worship and follow our Savior, Jesus Christ. Our ministers are available to counsel, answer questions and explain the Bible.
i can't help it if when you look at genesis2:2-3 or exodus16:23(which was months before israel came to mt.sinai when Yahvah spoke/wrote in stone the 10 commandments) or hebrews4:9 that you cannot see it ?
and i cannot help it if when you look at romans11:13 that you cannot see that a gentile, that becomes a real christian, also becomes a spiritual jew/israelite
G-D's spiritual laws are just as binding on all of us as are the physical laws of:gravity/magnetism/inertia/wind/electricity/atomic radiation/thermodynamics etc.
and as i pointed out before(leviticus24:22)G-D sets 1 standard set of rules for all of us----------none is free from the penalty that will come from breaking ANY of G-D's laws whether they be physical laws or spiritual laws.
the reprecussions for breaking G-D'S spiritual laws are not always immeadiate(some think they have gotten away with murder/theft/adultery/etc.)there can be a long delay until those that died in their sins are resurrected(revelation20)to face the Judge
I suppose you belong to a church.
I would guess that your church convenes on Sunday.
Does your church put any significance to that particular day?
Or, do they just hold church on Sunday because most people have that day off from work, anyway?
Could it be an imitation of the Sabbath?
Would you be prepared to give these same arguments, that you give us, in front of your congregation?
Tell them that there is something wrong with going to church, on a particular day, once a week?
Would you tell the members that they should be working on Sunday?
I think not.
So, how dare you, come here and speak against God's Holy Day, and not make a peep about the Roman counterfeit, being happily worshiped by everyone in your personal life?
Followers of the Church of God know about the origins of the lost 10 tribes because extensive research and studies on the migration of these tribes after exile were conducted
king david was hungry-----the bread was/is replaced daily-----that was all that was available in a hurry-----mercy is greater than the law in emergencies-----this was not a sin unto death(1john5:16)
God's Days of Worship
Since the Word of God doesn't sanction the celebration of either Christmas or Easter and condemns the pagan embellishments associated with these humanly devised holidays, how should Christians worship of God? Do annual celebrations exist that Christians should observe?
God has given us seven annual festivals, or feast days, on which to worship and honor Him. By observing them according to His Word, we can understand His ultimate plan for humanity. Let us now take note of the days on which God revealed we should formally worship Him. His festivals are far more significant than this world's holidays because they reveal His plan for humanity.
The first commanded day of worship
Leviticus 23 lists all of God's commanded festivals in order. The first of God's festivals is to be observed every week—the weekly Sabbath day (Leviticus 23:3).
In the first book of the Bible, Genesis, we find that God created man on the sixth day (Genesis 1:24-31). "And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made" (Genesis 2:2-3).
The Hebrew word for "rested" is shabath and is related to the word Sabbath. Literally, God sabbathed, or rested; He ceased from the work of creating (Exodus 20:8-11).
In resting, God also blessed and sanctified the seventh day as a gift for mankind (Genesis 2:2-3; Exodus 16:29). To sanctify something means to make it holy. Since God made the Sabbath holy (Exodus 16:23; 20:11; Nehemiah 9:14), He instructed those who follow Him to remember to keep it holy by also resting (Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15).
Keeping the Sabbath, then, reminds us that God is our Creator.
Besides making the Sabbath for rest, God also revealed that the Sabbath is a day of worship. In Leviticus 23 He told Moses: "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. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings'" (verses 1-3). Holy convocations are sacred assemblies for worship.
When Jesus Christ came to earth, He did not come to abolish or weaken God's commands (Matthew 5:17). He came to "exalt the law and make it honorable" (Isaiah 42:21). Jesus kept the Sabbath (Mark 1:21; 6:2; Luke 4:16; 6:6), as did the apostles and other members of the early Church (Acts 13:14; 17:2). Gentile believers met with them on the Sabbath (Acts 13:42, 44; 18:4).
This blessing from God, enshrined as one of the Ten Commandments, did not change. The seventh day of the week—observed from Friday evening to Saturday evening—continued as God's commanded holy day for rest and worship. Even though people later initiated a change to worshiping on Sunday, God's command was never rescinded, nor was there biblical authorization for a change to the first day of the week.
This is only the briefest explanation of God's Fourth Commandment. If you would like to discover much more about the biblical Sabbath, please request your free copy of the booklet Sunset to Sunset: God's Sabbath Rest.
Besides the weekly Sabbath, God gave His people annual festivals that correspond with the harvest seasons of Israel. These were also "holy convocations" to be observed at their appropriate times (Leviticus 23:4) and represent God's master plan of salvation for humankind.
Passover (Leviticus 23:5) is a reminder of how God took the lives of all the firstborn Egyptian males (Exodus 12:7, 26-29) but passed over the Israelites' homes because they had placed the blood of a sacrificed lamb on their doorposts.
The blood of the lamb foreshadowed the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which spares mankind from eternal death. In the New Testament, Christians came to understand that Christ is the true Passover Lamb (compare Exodus 12:21 with 1 Corinthians 5:7). In observing His last Passover with His disciples, Jesus explained that the symbols of bread and wine represent His body and blood, offered by Him for the forgiveness of our sins (Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24).
Our observance of this annual occasion marking Jesus' death (1 Corinthians 11:26) reminds us that eternal life is possible only through Him (John 6:47-54; Acts 4:10-12). His sacrifice is the starting point for salvation and the foundation of the annual feast days that follow.
Feast of Unleavened Bread
In conjunction with the Passover, God instituted the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6-8). Historically it commemorates the ancient Israelites fleeing Egypt in such haste they did not have time to let their bread rise (Exodus 12:33-34).
God commanded the Israelites to keep this festival by removing leaven (yeast) out of their homes for seven days. The first and last days of this week-long festival were specifically set apart as holy convocations—days devoted to rest and assembly for worship.
During His earthly ministry, Jesus identified leaven as a symbol of sin (Matthew 16:6-12; Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1). Thereafter members of the early Church continued to observe this festival by putting leaven out of their homes for the week as a symbol of the clean minds and attitudes God desires of His people (1 Corinthians 5:6-8). After accepting Christ's sacrifice for our sins, we must follow His example in practicing righteousness.
The Feast of Pentecost
The third annual feast day is the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost (Leviticus 23:16-21; Acts 2:1). This festival, which corresponded with the first harvest of the season, was the day God miraculously granted His Spirit to the New Testament Church (Acts 2).
Pentecost continues to remind us that God is the Lord of His harvest, choosing and preparing the firstfruits of His coming Kingdom by granting them His Spirit (Matthew 9:38; Luke 10:2; Romans 8:23; James 1:18). God's Spirit empowers us with the love of God, the motivation to obey Him, and a sound mind to discern His truth (2 Timothy 1:7; John 15:26; 16:13). Only those led by God's Spirit are called the Sons of God (Romans 8:9, 14).
The Feast of Trumpets
The next feast day is the Feast of Trumpets (Leviticus 23:24-25). Ancient Israel understood that trumpets were used as a way of announcing special messages (Numbers 10:1-10). The New Testament reveals a great event to be announced on this day with the sounding of a trumpet: the return of Jesus Christ to earth (Revelation 8:2, 11:15). This day also pictures a time when the dead in Christ will be resurrected to life (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16) to reign with Him for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:4-6).
The remaining feast days describe steps in the establishment of the prophesied Kingdom of God on earth and judgment of humanity after Christ's return.
The Day of Atonement
The Day of Atonement is the next holy convocation (Leviticus 23:26-32). Observed by fasting (verse 27, compare Acts 27:9), refraining from eating or drinking (Esther 4:16), this day represents humanity's need to be reconciled to God through the forgiveness of sin.
At the return of Christ, Satan will be bound (Revelation 20:1-3) so the nations can be reconciled to the Father through Christ. Luke referred to this observance as "the fast" in Acts 27:9.
The Feast of Tabernacles
The seven-day Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:34) represents the next step in God's master plan. This festival pictures the 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ (Revelation 20:4-6) known as the Millennium.
Isaiah describes this period as a time of peace when God's law will go out to all nations from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:2-4). Fierce animals' natures will change (Isaiah 11:6; 65:25), the earth will become highly productive (Isaiah 35:1), and, most important, "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9). With Satan's evil influence removed, all of humanity will at last learn God's ways.
This perfect environment will be designed to offer all people the opportunity to repent of their sins and come to God the Father through Jesus Christ. The Bible shows that Jesus attended this important festival (John 7:2, 10, 14).
The Last Great Day
The final step in God's plan of salvation for all mankind is represented in a feast day at the conclusion of the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:39). Called the eighth day or the Last Great Day (John 7:37), this festival pictures the great judgment of humankind described in Revelation 20:11-13. During this time all people who have died not knowing God's plan for them will be resurrected to life to be given an opportunity to respond to God's call.
Our Creator wants "all men to be saved" (1 Timothy 2:4) and is "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). Through this wonderful plan everyone will have an opportunity to know God's truth, repent and receive salvation.
The Church of the first century followed Jesus' example of observing these days. Peter and John urged the brethren to walk in Jesus' steps (1 Peter 2:21), to "walk just as He walked" (1 John 2:6). They followed Christ's command to teach converts to "observe all things that I [Jesus] have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20).
Obedience or idolatry?
Observances that are rooted in paganism break the first two of the Ten Commandments. Is God pleased when people claim to worship Him by adopting celebrations of pagan gods and goddesses in man-made holidays while they ignore His commanded days and ways of worship?
Celebrating the birth of the sun god or adopting fertility rites to other gods and goddesses violates God's clear instruction: "You shall have no other gods before Me" (Exodus 20:3).
Inventing religious feasts to replace those given by God contradicts His teaching: "You shall not make for yourself an idol ... You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God ..." (verses 4-5, New International Version). Substituting pagan customs and practices for what God has commanded—regardless of how well intentioned it might be—is idolatry.
Why would anyone choose to reject God's instructions and His marvelous feast days, especially since God gave them to us to reveal our ultimate destiny? To discover more about these magnificent festivals and how to observe them, be sure to request your free copy of the booklet God's Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind. You will find further proof that Jesus and the apostles observed these days and learn much more about their significance in helping us understand God's master plan for all of humanity.
Following the instruction and example of Jesus Christ, the apostles and the early New Testament Church, members of the United Church of God continue to observe these annual days. We welcome all who wish to join us in worshiping our Creator on these great festivals of hope. We invite you to contact our nearest office to locate a congregation near you.
God's Festivals in the New Testament
Commanded in the Old Testament: Leviticus 23:5
Observed by Jesus Christ, the apostles or the Church in the New Testament: Matthew 26:2, 17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 2:41-42; 22:1, 7-20; John 2:13, 23; 6:4; 13:1-30;1 Corinthians 11:23-29
Feast of Unleavened Bread
Commanded in the Old Testament: Leviticus 23:6-8
Observed by Jesus Christ, the apostles or the Church in the New Testament: Matthew 26:17; Mark 14:12; Luke 2:41-42, 22:1, 7; Acts 20:6; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8
Feast of Pentecost
Commanded in the Old Testament: Leviticus 23:15-22
Observed by Jesus Christ, the apostles or the Church in the New Testament: Acts 2:1-21; 20:16; 1 Corinthians 16:8
Feast of Trumpets*
Commanded in the Old Testament: Leviticus 23:23-25
Observed by Jesus Christ, the apostles or the Church in the New Testament: Matthew 24:30-31; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; Revelation 11:15
Day of Atonement
Commanded in the Old Testament: Leviticus 23:26-32
Observed by Jesus Christ, the apostles or the Church in the New Testament: Acts 27:9
Feast of Tabernacles
Commanded in the Old Testament: Leviticus 23:33-43
Observed by Jesus Christ, the apostles or the Church in the New Testament: John 7:1-2, 8, 10, 14; Acts 18:21
Last Great Day
Commanded in the Old Testament: Leviticus 23:36
Observed by Jesus Christ, the apostles or the Church in the New Testament: John 7:37-38
*Although the Feast of Trumpets is not mentioned by name in the New Testament, the theme of the day—the sounding of trumpets announcing Jesus Christ's return—is mentioned by several New Testament authors as noted in the references.
An Ancient Cultural Clash
Some 2,600 years ago, three young men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, faced a cultural crisis when they were commanded to show honor to a false god.
After their native country of Judah was conquered by the Babylonian Empire, the three were taken to Babylon to be trained for service in King Nebuchadnezzar's government (Daniel 1:1-7). They were in a vulnerable position in a kingdom in which the monarch ruled with absolute power.
The king built a graven image and commanded that everyone should show honor to his creation by bowing down to it (Daniel 3:1-7). Although some may have reasoned that they should show respect to the ruler by accepting some of his customs, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego determined to show respect to God by refusing to comply with this decree.
They knew their decision would lead to their being thrown into "a burning fiery furnace" (verses 6, 12-15), but they remained firm in their conviction. When the moment of decision arrived and the king personally commanded them to show honor to His god, they replied: "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up" (verses 16-18).
These courageous young men were willing to give their lives, if necessary, to show loyalty to God alone. Appreciating their devotion, God spared their lives in a powerful and miraculous witness to King Nebuchadnezzar (verses 19-30). The faith and faithfulness of these young men remains an enduring example of respect for God. Their example should inspire all of us to honor our Creator with a similar sense of loyalty and dedication.
What About Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Purim?
Since the Jews added the feasts of Purim (the origins of which are described in the book of Esther) and Hanukkah, otherwise known as the Feast of Lights or Feast of Dedication (mentioned in John 10:22-23), some believe we are free to add any religious holidays and celebrations of our own choosing. Is this true?
Important differences in the background and intent of these observances are obvious when we compare them to Christmas, Easter and Halloween. The Jews instituted Purim to commemorate their deliverance during the time of Esther, and Hanukkah to celebrate the rededication of the Jerusalem temple after its defilement by the Syrian invader Antiochus Epiphanes. Neither originated from paganism, although over the centuries these celebrations have taken on some practices, like the Hanukkah bush, that are rooted in paganism.
In their original form, Hanukkah and Purim, like the American holiday of Thanksgiving, are celebrations of thanks and honor to God for His intervention and blessings. The way some Americans celebrate Thanksgiving is far removed from the original intent, but that does not alter the real meaning and significance of the day.
An important distinction between acceptable holidays and those rooted in paganism (like Christmas and Easter) is that they do not alter, replace or distort the meaning of a festival of God or other biblical truths.
Does It Matter to God?
Over the last two millennia, traditional Christianity has systematically laid aside the "feast days of the Lord" and established its own holidays. Christmas was established to enable pagan converts to come into church fellowship without forsaking their heathen customs and practices. Easter is a replacement for the biblical Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread.
Even the weekly Sabbath was abandoned in favor of Sunday, supposedly to commemorate Jesus' resurrection (which, as we demonstrated earlier, did not take place on Sunday morning).
Although we should immediately recognize that overruling God's instructions is dangerous behavior, let us consider, from the biblical record, whether such humanly designed inventions and alterations are acceptable worship to our Creator God.
Changing God's instructions
When God began working with the ancient Israelites, He intended they set an example of obedience to Him for the nations around them (Deuteronomy 4:1, 6-8). They were to be a model nation, showing other peoples that God's way of life produces abundant blessings. Their experiences serve as continuing examples for us (1 Corinthians 10:1-11).
During their years in Egypt, the Israelites were exposed to Egyptian culture and worship. Notice what Unger's Bible Dictionary says about this culture: "The Egyptian religion was an utterly bewildering polytheistic conglomeration in which many deities of the earliest periods, when each town had its own deity, were retained ...
"Every object beheld, every phenomenon of nature, was thought to be indwelt by a spirit which could choose its own form, occupying the body of a crocodile, a fish, a cow, a cat, etc. Hence the Egyptians had numerous holy animals, principally the bull, the cow, the cat, the baboon, the jackal, and the crocodile" (1966, p. 291, "Egypt").
Shortly after miraculously delivering the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt, God instructed them how He wanted to be worshiped. He gave them His commandments (Exodus 20), along with statutes and judgments detailing how to apply them (Exodus 21-22). God revealed His feast days (Leviticus 23) and gave directions regarding a priesthood, tabernacle and offerings (Exodus 25-31). God told Moses to climb Mount Sinai and gave him two tablets of stone engraved with the Ten Commandments (Exodus 24:12; 31:18).
When Moses delayed coming down from Mount Sinai (Exodus 32:1), Aaron and the people decided to mix the Egyptian form of worship with the instructions they had just received from God. The practice of blending religious beliefs and practices is known as syncretism.
After creating a golden image of a calf, Aaron proclaimed the next day a holiday—"a feast to the Lord" (verses 4-5). They then "rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry" (verse 6, New International Version). This celebration combined God's instruction with Egyptian religious practice and tradition.
We are not told why the Israelites chose this mix of worship. Perhaps they thought it was not a good idea to abandon all of the familiar forms of worship at once and they simply practiced what they were familiar with from their years immersed in Egyptian culture. Whatever their thinking, God was not pleased. He told Moses: "Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them" (verses 7-8, New International Version).
God shows from His Word He expects more from those who claim to follow Him. He wants people to worship Him "in spirit and truth" (John 4:23-24)—not in corrupted, vile practices rooted in worship of other gods.
Consequences of futile worship
The Israelites were in no way justified in departing from the God-ordained instructions introduced in the wilderness. God was so angered by their actions that He was ready to destroy the nation (Exodus 32:10). Only because of Moses' pleadings did God relent and spare them (verses 11-14).
Ancient Israel's experiment with combining parts of God's instruction with pagan customs and elements was a disaster. In punishment for this sin, 3,000 men lost their lives (verses 27-28). The remaining people had to drink water polluted with the ground-up idol, pulverized into powder (verse 20).
Being presumptuous—taking unauthorized liberty to do things such as altering God's instructions for worship—is sinful. The Bible describes the Israelites' actions as "a great sin" (verses 21, 30, 31). God's law is clear concerning presumptuous behavior (Numbers 15:30-31).
The principle holds true today among God's people. Once we come to understand His truth, we have an obligation to take steps to obey Him. We recognize that the instruction and examples in His Word were recorded for our spiritual instruction and benefit (1 Corinthians 10:6, 11; Romans 15:4).
Additional warnings for Christians
The generation of Israelites who built the golden calf apparently never learned to trust and obey God. Only a short time later, while preparing to go into the land God had promised them, they grew afraid of the land's inhabitants and refused to enter (Numbers 13-14). As a result, God told them they would wander 40 years in the wilderness until all those who had refused to follow His instructions had died (Numbers 14:33). After their deaths, God then began preparing the next generation to enter Canaan.
Part of God's instructions included an explicit warning against incorporating pagan customs into their worship. Here are His exact words:
"When the Lord your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods? I also 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; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it" (Deuteronomy 12:29-32).