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Adult - Bible Introduction Course Part 2 September 07, 2008 10:29 AM

Should You Keep the Sabbath? - Lesson Twenty-One

God designed mankind to need a time of rest from physical labor and to focus its attention on the worship of God every seventh day. He created the Sabbath day for this central purpose. It was made to be a time of rest and refreshment to put things into proper perspective upon communing with and worshiping the Creator.

Of all the Ten Commandments, the fourth one, pertaining to the Sabbath, is expounded in greater detail, utilizing more words and space (in the English language), than any of the other commandments. The Second Commandment, which forbids idolatry, is almost as detailed. These two commandments are the very ones that organized Christianity most blatantly violates. The Roman Catholics have claimed the authority to change the Sabbath to the first day of the week, while sanctioning idolatry in many forms. The Protestants have blindly followed their lead on both of these issues.

Jesus Christ kept the Sabbath, as did the original apostles and the Church of God through the centuries. The weekly seventh-day Sabbath was commanded to be kept forever and will be kept by all humanity in the coming Millennium. This lesson presents the biblical proofs of the Sabbath in a clear way, and leads to a more in-depth study of the subject.

The Weekly Sabbath—Day of Commanded Rest

(1) How was the Fourth Commandment introduced? Exodus 20:8. Rewrite and highlight the first word in this verse, for emphasis.

Comment: The command to “ remember ” shows that the Sabbath had been known by the patriarchs of Israel before the time the Ten Commandments were given. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jacob’s sons had already known about and observed the Sabbath before this knowledge was lost by the following generations while enslaved in Egypt.

(2) If the Sabbath commandment was in force before the time of Moses, when was it first given? Genesis 2:1-3.

Comment: We find that at the end of the Creation Week, God blessed the seventh and final day of the week and sanctified it — set it apart for holy use. This was the day that God rested from His labors and He commanded mankind to do the same.

(3) What else do we find recorded pertaining to the Fourth Commandment? Exodus 20:9.

Comment: God expects man to work the first six days of the week and be productive at his endeavors. Man is to provide for himself and his family the best he can and manage his resources in accordance with God’s laws. Many verses, such as John 5:17, 36, show that God the Father and Christ are diligent to work themselves. Once man has accomplished his labor for six days, he is in need of rest, refreshment and reflection as to the purpose of his labors and to commune with God.

(4) What are the central instructions contained in the Fourth Commandment? Exodus 20:10-11.

Comment: Here we find recorded that the seventh day is the Sabbath and that neither man, nor his family, nor his hired help, nor work animals are to labor on this day. Further, to recount what was recorded in Genesis 2:1-3, verse 11 of Exodus 20 clearly shows that God rested on this day at the end of Creation Week and blessed and hallowed it. To hallow means “ to make holy or set apart as holy. ” God brought the Sabbath day into existence at this point in time and did so for the benefit of mankind.

(5) Did the patriarch Abraham keep God’s commandments and laws long before the time of the law being given at Mount Sinai? Genesis 26:5.

Comment: Abraham kept all of God’s laws, statutes and commandments and this certainly included the keeping of the Sabbath, as established immediately at the end of Creation Week.

(6) Did Christ explain that the Sabbath was made for the benefit of mankind, rather than to restrict man from performing good deeds in order to comply with Pharisaical regulations that went far beyond what the Scriptures specified or forbade? Mark 2:27; 3:1-4.

Comment: Some of the philosophers and theologians of the first century expressed their contempt for God’s Law, while proclaiming that the Sabbath commandment applied only to Jews and not to the rest of mankind. At the outset, God set apart the Sabbath as holy time for all mankind. The Jews — who were descendants of Judah, the son of Jacob — were not born until over 2,000 years later. The Sabbath day was set apart for all humanity in spite of the opinions of worldly theologians who despise God’s Law and look down on Jews because of their association with Sabbath - keeping.

 [ send green star]
 
 September 07, 2008 10:39 AM

The Sabbath Given as a Sign

(1) After delivering Israel from Egyptian bondage, did God provide a special sign to Israel setting them apart as His own people? Exodus 31:13.

Comment: Israel’s Exodus from Egypt was marked with numerous miracles from God. In the wake of this deliverance, God presented the Sabbath (already a commandment for all mankind) as a special sign between Him and this nation, whom He would set apart and bless with His presence and guidance.

(2) Was God serious about Israel’s obedience to the Sabbath command? Exodus 31:14-15.

Comment: The penalty for willful disobedience was death. This was not a harsh decree from a harsh God whose rule over the people created abject fear. Rather, obedience to this and all other commandments yielded great benefits and blessings, whereas rebellion spread to the national level and spelled chaos and ruin. God had to literally mandate happiness and fulfillment in order to guard against self-destruction by ancient Israel. This meant that the ultimate penalty for sin and rebellion had to be demonstrated on a personal level.

(3) Were the terms of the Sabbath sign between God and Israel essentially part of a separate Sabbath covenant? Exodus 31:16.

Comment: All other nations of that time were cut off from the knowledge and truth of God because they never kept His true seventh-day Sabbath. Only Israel had this contact with the true God, which was possible by fearing Him and keeping His laws —especially the all - important commandment to keep the Sabbath, which identified them as His people by a special covenant.

(4) How long was this covenant intended to last? Exodus 31:17.

Comment: This sign between God and Israel was to continue forever. Also, verse 16 shows that the Sabbath covenant was to be a perpetual covenant. The terms “ forever ” and “ perpetual ” do not imply a temporary span of time but rather “ lasting for eternity. ”

(5) Ancient Israel was carnal and never continued in obedience to God’s Law. Yet, what was Israel’s track record with regard to their faithfully keeping this sign of the Sabbath with their Creator? Ezekiel 20:11-13.

Comment: The term “ Sabbaths ” in Ezekiel 20 referred to not only the weekly Sabbath but the annual Sabbaths as well, to be discussed in future lessons.

Israel rebelled in the wilderness, in the Promised Land during the time of the judges, and especially during and after the time of Solomon’s rule. Amazingly, the book of Ezekiel was written after Judah was taken into Babylonian captivity about 585 B.C., but was addressed to Israel, which had already been taken into captivity over 140 years prior to the writing of this prophecy. The prophecy of Ezekiel was clearly intended for modern Israel — a people far removed from the laws of God and knowledge of the true Sabbath.

Sabbath Command Applies Even Today

(1) Does God expect us in this modern age to keep the Sabbath? Hebrews 3:8-11.

(2) Was ancient Israel’s failure to believe God and their disobedience to His Sabbath command the reason they never entered into the “ rest ” offered to them, as mentioned above? Hebrews 4:1-2.

Comment: Ancient Israel’s unbelief and faithlessness rendered the admonition given to them as unprofitable, since they rejected the instructions given to them through Moses.

(3) Did the apostle Paul admonish the Hebrews to take measures not to fall into the same state as ancient Israel and their unbelief? Hebrews 3:12, 15; 4:3.

(4) Exactly what is the direct connection between the “ rest ” discussed in Hebrews chapters 3 and 4 with the Sabbath Command still being in effect today? Hebrews 4:4, 9.

Comment: Verse 4 is a clear connection in which God rested on the Sabbath at the end of the Creation Week. It mentions the seventh day twice in connection with the Sabbath. In verse 9, we find the correct meaning of “ rest ” :  “ There remains therefore a rest to the people of God. ” The margin of the Oxford edition of the King James Version gives the correct meaning of the word translated “ rest. ” Translated from the Greek word Sabbatismos, it means “ a keeping of a (the) Sabbath. ” This verse, in its given context, should read, “ There remains therefore a keeping of the Sabbath for the people of God. ” Rather than being done away with, we find that the Sabbath still “ remains. ”

 [ send green star]
 
 September 07, 2008 11:09 AM

(5) Does the “ rest ” of the Sabbath typify the “ rest ” of the coming Millennium and kingdom of God? Hebrews 4:10-11.

Comment: Verse 10 clearly shows that when one enters his rest, he ceases from his works or labors, just as God rested on the original Sabbath at the end of Creation Week. Then verse 11 admonishes all to labor in order to enter into “ that rest, ” referring to the coming kingdom of God, which is the central part of the gospel message.

Seven-Day Week Reveals the Pattern of God’s 7,000-Year Plan

(1) Was each day of the Creation Week a literal 24-hour day? Genesis 1: 5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31; Genesis 2:2.

(2) Does the seventh - day Sabbath picture the coming 1,000 years of rest upon the earth? II Peter 3:8; Revelation 5:10; 20:6.

Comment: A day (according to God’s Plan) is as a thousand years and a thousand years of man’s history is as a day in the overall seven-day week (which consists of seven 1000-year days). Some accuse the Church of God of inventing this “ idea ” during the twentieth century. However, God’s overall plan of seven 1000-year days has been understood by His servants over the course of time and this understanding has also been attributed to the prophet Elijah. Notice the following:

“ The ancient and popular doctrine of the Millennium was intimately connected with the second coming of Christ. As the works of the creation had been finished in six days, their duration in their present state, according to a tradition which was attributed to the prophet Elijah, was fixed to six thousand years. By the same analogy, it was inferred that this long period of labor and contention, which was now almost elapsed, would be succeeded by a joyful Sabbath of a thousand years; and that Christ, with the triumphant band of the saints and the elect who had escaped death [by divine protection; Rev. 3:10], or who had been miraculously revived [resurrected from the dead], would reign upon earth till the time appointed for the last and general resurrection ” (Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon, 1858, Vol.1, ch.15, pp.533-534).

Christ Kept the Sabbath

(1) Did Christ create all things? John 1:3; Colossians 1:16.

Comment: This same Member of the God Family, who was the Spokesman or Word, was the one who created the Sabbath and set it apart as holy. For this very reason, He referred to Himself as “ Lord of the Sabbath ” in Mark 2:28 and Luke 6:5.

(2) Did this Member of the God Family divest Himself of His glory for a time in order to become a fleshly human being? Hebrews 2:9.

Comment: Christ came as a human being for a number of reasons, including preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God and the teaching and commissioning of the apostles, as He established His Church to continue to the end of the age. He also came for the suffering of death and the offering of his life for the sins of the world after having set the example for those called in this age to follow, including when and how to observe the Sabbath.

(3) Are we specifically told through Scripture to follow Christ’s example?

Matthew 28:20; I Corinthians 11:1; I Peter 2:21; I John 2:6.

(4) Was it Christ’s custom to observe the Sabbath and to assemble with others on the Sabbath? Leviticus 23:3; Luke 4:16, 31.

Comment: Christ obeyed the laws of God perfectly and had established keeping the Sabbath as a way of life.

 [ send green star]
 
 September 07, 2008 11:16 AM

The Apostles and the New Testament Church Kept the Sabbath

(1) Did the disciples of Christ observe the Sabbath commandment even after He was crucified? Luke 23:56.

Comment: After having rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment, those disciples were involved in laboring on the first day of the week, a regular work day.

(2) Did Paul always observe the Sabbath? Acts 17:1-2; I Corinthians 11:1.

Comment: As a zealous Jew, Paul had always observed the Sabbath—the same day Jesus kept. He continued to keep it with greater purpose after receiving God’s Spirit.

(3) During the time he was in Antioch in Asia Minor, did Paul preach to the Jews, as well as Gentiles who met with them, at the synagogue each Sabbath? Acts 13:14-15, 42-43.

Comment: When speaking almost exclusively to the Gentiles, Paul made no mention that the Sabbath was no longer binding or had been changed to Sunday. Rather, they continued to meet on the Sabbath (verse 44).

(4) Being a tentmaker by profession, did Paul suspend his work in order to observe the Sabbath? Acts 18: 1-4, 9, 11.

(5) Did Christ indicate that the Church in the end-time would be a Sabbath-keeping Church? Matthew 24:20.

Comment: Christ’s admonition for His people in the end-time to pray that their flight not take place on the Sabbath was a sure sign that the true Church would be keeping the Sabbath.

Final Points to Consider

(1) After the Babylonian captivity, did the Jews come to understand from God’s servants that Sabbath - breaking was a major reason for their captivity? Nehemiah 13:17-18.

Comment: As referenced earlier, the Jews have been very diligent to keep the Sabbath for this reason. Read Ezra’s words to this effect in Nehemiah 9:13-14, 33, 36.

(2) Does God promise special blessings upon those who keep His Sabbath with diligence, so as not to profane or pollute it? Isaiah 56:2. Does this also apply to the people of other nations besides Israel? Verse 6.

(3) Does God expect those who keep the Sabbath to do so in a way that is oriented toward pleasing God instead of pursuit of their own pleasures? Isaiah 58:13.

Comment: The proper approach to keeping the Sabbath is to seek to do what is pleasing to God.

(4) What are the blessings associated with proper observance of the Sabbath? Isaiah 58:14.

Comment: This is not an empty promise. God can and will reward those who seek to do His will.

(5) Will the Sabbath be kept during the millennial reign of Christ? Isaiah 66:23; Ezekiel 46:1.

Comment: In the Millennium, the Sabbath will be universally kept by all mankind.

For more detailed information about the Sabbath, take the time to read our extensive thread Saturday or Sunday – Which Is the Sabbath?

 [ send green star]
 
Should You Keep the Sabbath? - Lesson Twenty-One October 06, 2008 9:44 AM

God designed mankind to need a time of rest from physical labor and to focus its attention on the worship of God every seventh day. He created the Sabbath day for this central purpose. It was made to be a time of rest and refreshment to put things into proper perspective upon communing with and worshiping the Creator.

Of all the Ten Commandments, the fourth one, pertaining to the Sabbath, is expounded in greater detail, utilizing more words and space (in the English language) , than any of the other commandments. The Second Commandment, which forbids idolatry, is almost as detailed. These two commandments are the very ones that organized Christianity most blatantly violates. The Roman Catholics have claimed the authority to change the Sabbath to the first day of the week, while sanctioning idolatry in many forms. The Protestants have blindly followed their lead on both of these issues.

Jesus Christ kept the Sabbath, as did the original apostles and the Church of God through the centuries. The weekly seventh - day Sabbath was commanded to be kept forever and will be kept by all humanity in the coming Millennium. This lesson presents the biblical proofs of the Sabbath in a clear way, and leads to a more in-depth study of the subject.

The Weekly Sabbath — Day of Commanded Rest

(1) How was the Fourth Commandment introduced? Exodus 20:8. Rewrite and highlight the first word in this verse, for emphasis.

Comment: The command to “ remember ” shows that the Sabbath had been known by the patriarchs of Israel before the time the Ten Commandments were given. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jacob’s sons had already known about and observed the Sabbath before this knowledge was lost by the following generations while enslaved in Egypt.

(2) If the Sabbath commandment was in force before the time of Moses, when was it first given? Genesis 2:1-3.

Comment: We find that at the end of the Creation Week, God blessed the seventh and final day of the week and sanctified it — set it apart for holy use. This was the day that God rested from His labors and He commanded mankind to do the same.

(3) What else do we find recorded pertaining to the Fourth Commandment? Exodus 20:9.

Comment: God expects man to work the first six days of the week and be productive at his endeavors. Man is to provide for himself and his family the best he can and manage his resources in accordance with God’s laws. Many verses, such as John 5:17, 36, show that God the Father and Christ are diligent to work themselves. Once man has accomplished his labor for six days, he is in need of rest, refreshment and reflection as to the purpose of his labors and to commune with God.

(4) What are the central instructions contained in the Fourth Commandment? Exodus 20:10-11.

Comment: Here we find recorded that the seventh day is the Sabbath and that neither man, nor his family, nor his hired help, nor work animals are to labor on this day. Further, to recount what was recorded in Genesis 2:1-3, verse 11 of Exodus 20 clearly shows that God rested on this day at the end of Creation Week and blessed and hallowed it. To hallow means “ to make holy or set apart as holy. ” God brought the Sabbath day into existence at this point in time and did so for the benefit of mankind.

(5) Did the patriarch Abraham keep God’s commandments and laws long before the time of the law being given at Mount Sinai? Genesis 26:5.

Comment: Abraham kept all of God’s laws, statutes and commandments and this certainly included the keeping of the Sabbath, as established immediately at the end of Creation Week.

(6) Did Christ explain that the Sabbath was made for the benefit of mankind, rather than to restrict man from performing good deeds in order to comply with Pharisaical regulations that went far beyond what the Scriptures specified or forbade? Mark 2:27; 3:1-4.

Comment: Some of the philosophers and theologians of the first century expressed their contempt for God’s Law, while proclaiming that the Sabbath commandment applied only to Jews and not to the rest of mankind. At the outset, God set apart the Sabbath as holy time for all mankind. The Jews — who were descendants of Judah, the son of Jacob — were not born until over 2,000 years later. The Sabbath day was set apart for all humanity in spite of the opinions of worldly theologians who despise God’s Law and look down on Jews because of their association with Sabbath - keeping.

 [ send green star]
 
 October 06, 2008 9:53 AM

The Sabbath Given as a Sign

(1) After delivering Israel from Egyptian bondage, did God provide a special sign to Israel setting them apart as His own people? Exodus 31:13.

Comment: Israel’s Exodus from Egypt was marked with numerous miracles from God. In the wake of this deliverance, God presented the Sabbath (already a commandment for all mankind) as a special sign between Him and this nation, whom He would set apart and bless with His presence and guidance.

(2) Was God serious about Israel’s obedience to the Sabbath command? Exodus 31:14-15.

Comment: The penalty for willful disobedience was death. This was not a harsh decree from a harsh God whose rule over the people created abject fear. Rather, obedience to this and all other commandments yielded great benefits and blessings, whereas rebellion spread to the national level and spelled chaos and ruin. God had to literally mandate happiness and fulfillment in order to guard against self-destruction by ancient Israel. This meant that the ultimate penalty for sin and rebellion had to be demonstrated on a personal level.

(3) Were the terms of the Sabbath sign between God and Israel essentially part of a separate Sabbath covenant? Exodus 31:16.

Comment: All other nations of that time were cut off from the knowledge and truth of God because they never kept His true seventh - day Sabbath. Only Israel had this contact with the true God, which was possible by fearing Him and keeping His laws — especially the all - important commandment to keep the Sabbath, which identified them as His people by a special covenant.

(4) How long was this covenant intended to last? Exodus 31:17.

Comment: This sign between God and Israel was to continue forever. Also, verse 16 shows that the Sabbath covenant was to be a perpetual covenant. The terms “ forever ” and “ perpetual ” do not imply a temporary span of time but rather “ lasting for eternity. ”

(5) Ancient Israel was carnal and never continued in obedience to God’s Law. Yet, what was Israel’s track record with regard to their faithfully keeping this sign of the Sabbath with their Creator? Ezekiel 20:11-13.

Comment: The term “ Sabbaths ” in Ezekiel 20 referred to not only the weekly Sabbath but the annual Sabbaths as well, to be discussed in future lessons.

Israel rebelled in the wilderness, in the Promised Land during the time of the judges, and especially during and after the time of Solomon’s rule. Amazingly, the book of Ezekiel was written after Judah was taken into Babylonian captivity about 585 B.C., but was addressed to Israel, which had already been taken into captivity over 140 years prior to the writing of this prophecy. The prophecy of Ezekiel was clearly intended for modern Israel — a people far removed from the laws of God and knowledge of the true Sabbath.

Sabbath Command Applies Even Today

(1) Does God expect us in this modern age to keep the Sabbath? Hebrews 3:8-11.

(2) Was ancient Israel’s failure to believe God and their disobedience to His Sabbath command the reason they never entered into the “ rest ” offered to them, as mentioned above? Hebrews 4:1-2.

Comment: Ancient Israel’s unbelief and faithlessness rendered the admonition given to them as unprofitable, since they rejected the instructions given to them through Moses.

(3) Did the apostle Paul admonish the Hebrews to take measures not to fall into the same state as ancient Israel and their unbelief? Hebrews 3:12, 15; 4:3.

(4) Exactly what is the direct connection between the “ rest ” discussed in Hebrews chapters 3 and 4 with the Sabbath Command still being in effect today? Hebrews 4:4, 9.

Comment: Verse 4 is a clear connection in which God rested on the Sabbath at the end of the Creation Week. It mentions the seventh day twice in connection with the Sabbath. In verse 9, we find the correct meaning of “ rest ” :  “ There remains therefore a rest to the people of God. ” The margin of the Oxford edition of the King James Version gives the correct meaning of the word translated  “rest. ” Translated from the Greek word Sabbatismos, it means “ a keeping of a (the) Sabbath. ” This verse, in its given context, should read, “ There remains therefore a keeping of the Sabbath for the people of God. ” Rather than being done away with, we find that the Sabbath still “ remains. ”

 [ send green star]
 
 October 06, 2008 10:02 AM

(5) Does the “ rest ” of the Sabbath typify the “ rest ” of the coming Millennium and kingdom of God? Hebrews 4:10-11.

Comment: Verse 10 clearly shows that when one enters his rest, he ceases from his works or labors, just as God rested on the original Sabbath at the end of Creation Week. Then verse 11 admonishes all to labor in order to enter into “ that rest, ” referring to the coming kingdom of God, which is the central part of the gospel message.

Seven - Day Week Reveals the Pattern of God’s 7,000 - Year Plan

(1) Was each day of the Creation Week a literal 24-hour day? Genesis 1: 5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31; Genesis 2:2.

(2) Does the seventh-day Sabbath picture the coming 1,000 years of rest upon the earth? II Peter 3:8; Revelation 5:10; 20:6.

Comment: A day (according to God’s Plan) is as a thousand years and a thousand years of man’s history is as a day in the overall seven - day week (which consists of seven 1000 - year days) . Some accuse the Church of God of inventing this “ idea ” during the twentieth century. However, God’s overall plan of seven 1000 - year days has been understood by His servants over the course of time and this understanding has also been attributed to the prophet Elijah. Notice the following:

“ The ancient and popular doctrine of the Millennium was intimately connected with the second coming of Christ. As the works of the creation had been finished in six days, their duration in their present state, according to a tradition which was attributed to the prophet Elijah, was fixed to six thousand years. By the same analogy, it was inferred that this long period of labor and contention, which was now almost elapsed, would be succeeded by a joyful Sabbath of a thousand years; and that Christ, with the triumphant band of the saints and the elect who had escaped death [by divine protection; Rev. 3:10] , or who had been miraculously revived [resurrected from the dead] , would reign upon earth till the time appointed for the last and general resurrection ” (Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon, 1858, Vol.1, ch.15, pp.533-534).

Christ Kept the Sabbath

(1) Did Christ create all things? John 1:3; Colossians 1:16.

Comment: This same Member of the God Family, who was the Spokesman or Word, was the one who created the Sabbath and set it apart as holy. For this very reason, He referred to Himself as “ Lord of the Sabbath ” in Mark 2:28 and Luke 6:5.

(2) Did this Member of the God Family divest Himself of His glory for a time in order to become a fleshly human being? Hebrews 2:9.

Comment: Christ came as a human being for a number of reasons, including preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God and the teaching and commissioning of the apostles, as He established His Church to continue to the end of the age. He also came for the suffering of death and the offering of his life for the sins of the world after having set the example for those called in this age to follow, including when and how to observe the Sabbath.

(3) Are we specifically told through Scripture to follow Christ’s example?

Matthew 28:20; I Corinthians 11:1; I Peter 2:21; I John 2:6.

(4) Was it Christ’s custom to observe the Sabbath and to assemble with others on the Sabbath? Leviticus 23:3; Luke 4:16, 31.

Comment: Christ obeyed the laws of God perfectly and had established keeping the Sabbath as a way of life.

 [ send green star]
 
 October 06, 2008 10:09 AM

The Apostles and the New Testament Church Kept the Sabbath

(1) Did the disciples of Christ observe the Sabbath commandment even after He was crucified? Luke 23:56.

Comment: After having rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment, those disciples were involved in laboring on the first day of the week, a regular work day.

(2) Did Paul always observe the Sabbath? Acts 17:1-2; I Corinthians 11:1.

Comment: As a zealous Jew, Paul had always observed the Sabbath — the same day Jesus kept. He continued to keep it with greater purpose after receiving God’s Spirit.

(3) During the time he was in Antioch in Asia Minor, did Paul preach to the Jews, as well as Gentiles who met with them, at the synagogue each Sabbath? Acts 13:14-15, 42-43.

Comment: When speaking almost exclusively to the Gentiles, Paul made no mention that the Sabbath was no longer binding or had been changed to Sunday. Rather, they continued to meet on the Sabbath (verse 44) .

(4) Being a tentmaker by profession, did Paul suspend his work in order to observe the Sabbath? Acts 18: 1-4, 9, 11.

(5) Did Christ indicate that the Church in the end-time would be a Sabbath-keeping Church? Matthew 24:20.

Comment: Christ’s admonition for His people in the end-time to pray that their flight not take place on the Sabbath was a sure sign that the true Church would be keeping the Sabbath.

Final Points to Consider

(1) After the Babylonian captivity, did the Jews come to understand from God’s servants that Sabbath - breaking was a major reason for their captivity? Nehemiah 13:17-18.

Comment: As referenced earlier, the Jews have been very diligent to keep the Sabbath for this reason. Read Ezra’s words to this effect in Nehemiah 9:13-14, 33, 36.

(2) Does God promise special blessings upon those who keep His Sabbath with diligence, so as not to profane or pollute it? Isaiah 56:2. Does this also apply to the people of other nations besides Israel? Verse 6.

(3) Does God expect those who keep the Sabbath to do so in a way that is oriented toward pleasing God instead of pursuit of their own pleasures? Isaiah 58:13.

Comment: The proper approach to keeping the Sabbath is to seek to do what is pleasing to God.

(4) What are the blessings associated with proper observance of the Sabbath? Isaiah 58:14.

Comment: This is not an empty promise. God can and will reward those who seek to do His will.

(5) Will the Sabbath be kept during the millennial reign of Christ? Isaiah 66:23; Ezekiel 46:1.

Comment: In the Millennium, the Sabbath will be universally kept by all mankind.

For more detailed information about the Sabbath, take the time to read our extensive thread Saturday or Sunday  –  Which Is the Sabbath?

 [ send green star]
 
Who Authorized Sunday Worship? - Lesson Twenty-Two November 21, 2008 7:14 AM

Sunday Observance

As the great counterfeiter, Satan has presented many false forms of virtually every aspect of God’s truth. He has not only counterfeited God’s true Church, but also the very sign that identifies those who know and obey God — the Sabbath day.

Satan has succeeded in deceiving professing Christianity into accepting Sunday and rejecting the Sabbath. In Genesis chapter 1, when God originally defined the seven-day week, He simply numbered each day. They were called “ the first day, ” “ the second day, ” etc. All the days of the week were identified merely by numbers, except the seventh day. Concerning the seventh day, we read, “ And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made. ” In Exodus 20:10, as God proclaimed the Ten Commandments, He affirmed, “ the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God… ” (Gen. 2:2-3) . Thus, we see that God gave the seventh day special honor and a unique title, unlike the other days. ( Today, they all carry pagan names — Sunday [Sun’s day], Monday [Moon’s day], Tuesday [Tiw’s day], and so forth. )

Why did the first day come to be so prominent?

In this lesson, we will summarize how Sunday came to be observed by professing Christianity, although it was never commanded — or even permitted — in the Bible. We will also see some of the ways that worldly theologians attempt to justify Sunday observance.

The First Day of the Week — Satan’s Counterfeit of the Sabbath

Before examining the Scriptures for any evidence of Sunday observance, we need to cover some vital historical background of this subject. The earliest recorded account of a leader rising up and promoting religion in opposition to God’s teachings was Nimrod. Nimrod was high priest of the sun and his mother-wife, Semiramis, was priestess. Much of the religion of the Babylonian Mysteries originated with Nimrod and Semiramis, who reigned over the people of Babel about two centuries after the Flood.

Nimrod branded the practice of fearing and obeying God as cowardice (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Bk. I, ch. IV) . He put himself in the place of God. (See Genesis 10:9, where “ before ” should be translated “ against. ” ) When Nimrod died, his subjects worshiped him as a deity — the personification of the sun god (Satan). He had been known by the name “ Baal, ” which means “ master ” or “ lord, ” as he attempted to exalt himself above the true Lord and Master of the universe. Yet, Nimrod had been known by a number of other names. In Babylon, he was known as “ Tammuz. ” In Syria, he was known as “ Adonis, ” meaning “ lord. ” In Egypt, he was known as the god “ Osiris, ” and Semiramis was known as the goddess “ Isis. ”

The Babylonian Mysteries remained intact for millennia after Nimrod’s death. When the northern kingdom of Israel was taken into captivity, their captors, the Assyrians, placed peoples from Babylon (still adhering to the Babylonian Mysteries religion) into the land where Israel had formerly dwelled. These were the Samaritans mentioned in the New Testament as being perpetually at odds with the Jews. Simon Magus was the high priest of the Samaritan religion. He opposed the true religion taught by the apostles and set out to spread his own counterfeit gospel. Another Samaritan who became prominent in the early formation of the great false church headquartered at Rome was Justin Martyr.

Justin Martyr openly opposed the Sabbath, labeling Sabbath keepers as “ Judaizers. ” True to his background as a Samaritan and worshipper of Nimrod as “ lord ” of the sun, he advocated the keeping of Sunday about two centuries before it was mandated for all the Roman Empire by Constantine. The origin of Sunday being termed as the “ Lord’s day ” had long predated the first century and the time of Christ’s mission on earth.

Now to quote excerpts from the article “ Sunday ” from Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed., 1911, Volume 26, p. 94: “ Sunday, or the Lord’s Day, in the Christian world, the first day of the week, celebrated in memory of the resurrection of Christ, as the principle day for public worship. ” The article continues, “ An additional reason for the sanctity of the day may have been found in its association with Pentecost… ” It is true that the Feast of Pentecost is always observed on a Sunday as the writers of this article acknowledged, yet this backup statement was mere conjecture. We will shortly address the error of associating Sunday with the Resurrection of Christ.

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 November 21, 2008 7:38 AM

The honesty of these scholars contributing to the aforementioned article is quite commendable as they do frankly admit, “ There is no evidence that in the earliest years of Christianity [the apostolic era of the first century] there was any formal observance of Sunday as a day of rest or any general cessation of work ” (Ibid. ) . Of course, during that time, the true Church faithfully observed the seventh-day Sabbath!

Continuing in the article, we read, “ The first writer who mentions the name of Sunday as applicable to the Lord’s day is Justin Martyr; this designation of the first day of the week, which is of heathen origin, had come into general use in the Roman world shortly before Justin wrote. ” Pagan sun worship was already prevalent in the Roman Empire even before the first century. By the time of Constantine in the fourth century, the pagan observance of Sunday was given the ultimate status as Emperor Constantine imposed his edict of A.D. 321. His famous decree began, “ On the venerable Day of the Sun let all magistrates and people…rest ” (Shaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, article “ Sunday Legislation ” ) .

The Roman Catholic Church was greatly empowered by this move. Having such contributors as Simon Magus and Justin Martyr in establishing their foundations, the Catholics shared Constantine’s aversion to the Sabbath. Although Justin was a critic of Simon, they both advocated the precepts of the Babylonian Mysteries and mutually opposed the keeping of the Sabbath in favor of Sunday observance. It should be noted that about this time, the planetary names had been given to the days of the week: “ The use of planetary names [Monday, Tuesday, etc.] attests to the growing influence of astrological speculations introduced by the converts from paganism ” (Webster’s Rest Days, p. 252).

With Sunday observance now mandated, Sabbath observance became illegal. And by A.D. 325, it became punishable by confiscation of property and death.

Was Christ’s Resurrection on Sunday?

The phrase “ the first day of the week ” appears in eight different verses in the New Testament. Six of these eight verses pertain to the time associated with Christ’s resurrection. We will examine them below. Since this is the primary basis used to justify Sunday observance, it must be addressed first and foremost. Keep in mind that even if Christ had been resurrected on the first day of the week — which we will show that He was not — there exists no scriptural basis for changing the Sabbath from the seventh day of the week to the first day.

(1) In order to understand how the days are reckoned, we must understand when each new day begins, according to Scripture. Does a day begin at sunrise, midnight or sunset? Genesis 1:5; Exodus 12:6.

Comment: “ The evening and the morning ” comprised the first day, as well as the remaining days of the Creation Week (Gen. 1:8, 13, 19, 23, 31) . The terms were written in this order because each day began at evening about the time of sunset. This is how God reckoned each day.

Exodus 12:6 pertains to instructions as to when to kill the Passover lamb. The term used at the end of verse 6, “ in the evening, ” should be properly rendered “ between the two evenings. ” The Jewish Encyclopedia defines this time as the twilight period between the time the sun goes down when the new day commences and the darkness when the stars come out. Although Passover was observed on the 14th of the month of Abib (Nisan), it actually began on the prior evening as the 13th ended at the time of sunset.

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 November 21, 2008 7:51 AM

The precise beginning of each day is crucial in determining time periods in Scripture, as we shall see. It is vital in helping one discern the meaning of such scriptures as Luke 23:54, which states, “ And that day was the preparation, and the Sabbath drew on. ” This defines a time just before sunset on a day preceding a Sabbath. Yet, it would be meaningless to someone not familiar with how time was properly reckoned.

(2) Was Christ’s tomb found to be empty on a Sunday morning? Matthew 28:1, 5-6.

Comment: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary would not have attempted to anoint the body of Christ with spices on the Sabbath day. Rather, they rested on the Sabbath and came to the tomb after the time of rest, as stated in Luke 23:56: “ And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment. ” After a description of the events that had previously occurred (Matt. 28:2-4) , verses 5 to 6 describe an angel telling the women that Christ was already risen.

(3) What does Mark 16:2, 9 show about the timing of Christ’s Resurrection? Mark 16:1-2, 9.

Comment: This account shows the women coming to the tomb in the early morning of the first day of the week, finding that Christ had already risen. Verse 9, in particular, is used to “ prove ” the false tradition that Christ’s Resurrection occurred on Sunday. Note the wording: “ Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene…”

The original Greek text had no punctuation. Translators of this text could unwittingly change the meaning by the addition or omission of commas, as happened here. Both the Montgomery Translation and the Expositors Greek Testament have this verse translated as follows: “ Now when Jesus was risen, early the first day of the week he appeared first to Mary Magdalene… ” This is in perfect harmony with the other scriptures defining Christ’s Resurrection.

(4) Does Luke 24:1 add to our understanding of the sequence of events? Luke 23:56; 24:1.

Comment: Only after having rested on the Sabbath day were the women ready to take their spices, which they had prepared prior to the weekly Sabbath. This account also shows that they arrived at the tomb early on the first day of the week.

(5) What information does John 20:1 provide about when the women arrived at the tomb? John 20:1.

Comment: The women arrived at the tomb or sepulcher “ when it was yet dark ” to find the stone had been removed. This shows that Christ had been resurrected well before sunrise. This information discredits the sunrise resurrection tradition.

Yet, further investigation into the origin of sunrise services is quite revealing. Ezekiel 8:14-16 shows women weeping for Tammuz (another name for Nimrod, their sun god) and the people facing the east as they worshipped the sun. This prophetic vision in Ezekiel applies directly to our time, as well as ancient Israel. People today blindly carry on traditions such as sunrise services, thinking they are honoring Christ, while following rituals from the ancient Babylonian Mysteries. God calls these practices abominations (Ezek. 8:13) .

(6) Finally, does John 20:19 justify Sunday observance as some falsely claim? John 20:19.

Comment: The timing of this verse is clearly Sunday evening, because Mary Magdalene had just reported to the disciples that she had seen the resurrected Christ (vs.18) . It also shows that the disciples were assembled. But it does not say they were assembled for a church service. Rather, we read that they were assembled for fear of the Jews — actually hiding from the Jews.

A Summarized Sequence of Events

After having addressed all six specific scriptures that reference “ the first day of the week ” associated with the time of the Resurrection of Christ, we now present the overall timeline from Passover Day of A.D. 31, which occurred on the 4th day of the week, or Wednesday. The following 3-day-and-3-night span of 72 hours included a high Sabbath on Thursday (the First Day of Unleavened Bread) and the 7th day weekly Sabbath, which completed the span. Be sure to write out these timeline points along with the associated scriptures:

Christ shared the Passover meal with His disciples on the evening before His crucifixion (Luke 22:15) .

He was crucified on Passover Day (Nisan 14), about the 3rd hour (Mark 15:25) .

Darkness prevailed from the 6th hour until the 9th hour, at which time Christ died (Matt. 27:45-50) .

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 November 21, 2008 8:01 AM

He was placed in His tomb late on Passover day (Matt. 27:57-60; Luke 23:53-54) .

He was to be 3 days and 3 nights (entombed) in the heart of the earth (Matt. 12:39-40) .

Passover day was followed by a “ high day ” or annual Sabbath (John 19:31) .

After the high day, the women prepared spices for Christ’s burial (Luke 23:54-56 (first part) ) .

After a day of preparing spices, they rested on the weekly Sabbath (Luke 23:56 (last part) ) .

The next day—the 1st day of the week — they found that Christ had already risen (Matt. 28:6) .

This weekly Sabbath occurring within the days of Unleavened Bread was when Christ was resurrected according to His own words. He indicated that no sign would be given except for the sign of the prophet Jonah — that he would be entombed for 3 days and 3 nights just as Jonah was in the great fish or whale (Matt. 12:39-40) .

Three days and three nights from late Passover Day on Wednesday brings us to late in the weekly Sabbath. Christ would have been resurrected according to the only sign He had promised to give to prove He was the Messiah. Do you believe Him?

In order to cover this interesting account in much greater detail, study our thread Christ’s Resurrection was NOT on Sunday. You will find that it answers all the objections and provides overwhelming evidence of the correct timeframe of Christ’s Resurrection.

Other Attempts to Justify Sunday Observance

(1) Did the disciples come together on the first day of the week to break bread and to hear preaching? Acts 20:7.

Comment: On this particular occasion, Paul had conducted Sabbath services earlier on the Sabbath and continued to instruct and exhort the brethren because he was to depart on his journey the very next day — the daylight portion of Sunday. So after having met on the Sabbath, Paul continued preaching for many hours continuing into “ Saturday evening ” (which was the beginning of the first day of the week) and on through midnight. After having miraculously revived a youth, taken up as dead, who had fallen from the loft, as Paul was “ long preaching ” (vs. 9-10), he actually continued encouraging the brethren until daybreak (vs. 11) . He was scheduled to depart and not likely to ever see them again.

There is no indication in this verse that meeting together on the first day of the week had become the custom in the apostolic era. Rather, many dozens of statements from history of the brethren meeting on the Sabbath have been ignored by theologians down through history, yet they are diligent to search for possible loopholes around keeping God’s Sabbath.

(2) What about the brethren of the early Church laying in store offerings on the first day of the week? I Corinthians 16:2.

Comment: Paul had requested that the Corinthians contribute needed supplies and food to the brethren of Jerusalem (vs. 3), where a severe shortage existed at that time. This was explained in Romans 15:25-28 and was similar to a previous famine recorded in Acts 11:27-30. Paul was requesting that the supplies and food be collected on the first day of the week (possibly the evening after the Sabbath) so that this gathering would not interfere with his upcoming visit. Gathering such material involved extensive labor, which could not be done on the Sabbath. Here again, this was far from being any kind of precedent that could have elevated the first day of the week above the Sabbath, suggesting “ offering plates ” passed each Sunday.

To better understand this subject, read our thorough thread SATURDAY OR SUNDAY – Which is the Sabbath?

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 December 02, 2008 7:57 AM

God’s Seven Feast Days

This lesson begins a series of seven lessons that should prove beneficial in not only introducing the subject to many for the first time, but also serving as a refresher that can be reviewed every year prior to each Feast. These lessons cover the fascinating subject of the feasts that God commands His people to observe for all time, including today. Together, these seven feasts picture the overview of God’s plan of salvation, with each Feast depicting a separate vital step in God’s overall Master Plan of Salvation.

Before listing the feasts and describing how each one was to be observed, Leviticus 23:4 presents the following statement: “ These are the feasts of the Lord, even holy convocations, which you shall proclaim in their seasons. ” As the new sacred year begins each spring, the feasts occur in a particular sequence at a particular time, as we will examine in each of the seven lessons. Seven is God’s special number signifying completing and perfection. There are seven feasts in God’s Master Plan as well as seven Holy Days. A Holy Day is an annual Feast Day in which no servile work is done and God commands an offering.

Passover, the first feast, is not a Holy Day in which no work can be done, nor is an offering commanded on this day. Yet, this day precedes a Holy Day, in which an offering is commanded. Passover does require a convocation of God’s people. Passover immediately precedes the First Day of Unleavened Bread and makes possible the steps depicted by all the remaining feasts that follow it.

The Beginning of God’s Plan — Not the End

Many modern religionists claim that the issue of salvation ended at the “ cross ” (though Christ probably died on a stake – an upright pale) — that the acceptance of Christ’s death is all there is to salvation. They further proclaim that beyond the acceptance of this sacrifice, there is nothing more to do, since we are already “ saved. ” They mistakenly take the very first step in God’s plan of salvation and proclaim that this is the end of the matter. The Bible shows there is much more to this matter and that man’s obligation was not finished at the cross.

Christ did come to offer Himself for the sins of the world, and successfully finished this phase of God’s Plan, as He expressed in His dying words, “ It is finished ” (John 19:30) .

Before this, Christ had fulfilled His commission to preach the good news of the kingdom of God and to teach, train and prepare His disciples to continue this Work until His Return at the end of this age. Concerning this phase of the commission, He stated, “ I have finished the work which You gave me to do ” (John 17:4) . Christ, indeed, finished His part in that phase of God’s Plan. Yet, today, He is busy and active in His current role as High Priest, interceding on behalf of those God has called (Rom. 8:34) , as well as guiding His Work and His Church in the last years before this world faces the greatest time of suffering ever to befall mankind.

We must grasp the fact that Christ’s sacrifice was the first crucial step in the overall Plan of God that made all of the following steps possible.

The Need for a Living Savior

(1) Why is it necessary for mankind to have a Savior? Romans 3:23; 6:23.

Comment: Without the penalty for our sins being paid by someone of greater worth or value than all mankind, everyone would have to pay the penalty of death individually.

(2) Did God plan before the Creation for Christ to become the Savior of mankind? I Peter 1:18-20.

(3) Would Christ’s death and shed blood have saved us had He not been resurrected? I Corinthians 15:17.

(4) If Christ’s death alone does not save us, then what does? Romans 5:10; John 14:19.

Comment: We are reconciled to God by His death, but saved by His life. Christ has saved (rescued) us from the death penalty because He suffered death in our stead. Once having been rescued in this way, we are saved (preserved) by the living Christ, who sends His Holy Spirit, which strengthens and preserves those God calls in this age.

The Passover Lamb

God allowed the tribes of Israel to remain in Egypt for almost two and a half centuries before delivering them out of bondage. He used Moses to reveal to Israel what was to take place to free them from Egypt. As nine of the ten plagues had already been unleashed upon Egypt, Moses relayed to the Israelites the details of what to do in preparation for the final plague. God revealed that the month of Abib was the beginning of the sacred year and that Israel was to take a lamb on the 10th of that month to keep until the 14th of the month, when it was to be killed. The lamb was to fulfill a special purpose.

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 December 02, 2008 8:08 AM

(1) Did Isaiah prophesy of Christ in terms of a lamb taken to the slaughter? Isaiah 53:7-8.

(2) Did the Passover lamb represent Christ? John 1:29; I Peter 1:19.

(3) When the lamb was killed, what was to be done with the blood? Exodus 12:6-7.

(4) As the 10th plague struck Egypt, what purpose did the blood serve? Exodus 12:12-13.

Comment: Wherever blood had been smeared on the door posts, the death angel passed over that particular house — hence, the term “ Passover. ” The blood signified that the house was protected. This event symbolized the fulfillment of the Passover lamb, the one who would come in the flesh many centuries later as Jesus Christ.

(5) Was Israel instructed that it was permissible to observe Passover on the 15th of the month at the same time as the Feast of Unleavened Bread if they so desired? Leviticus 23:5-6.

Comment: Passover was to always be observed on the 14th, with the Feast of Unleavened Bread beginning on the 15th. This was clearly designated in Scripture. The fact that certain sects of the Jews had compromised by observing Passover on the 15th (after the time of Antiochus Epiphanes and his Hellenistic influence) does not override the clear scriptural commands to observe Passover on the 14th. The Jews of Galilee kept the Passover on the 14th during the time of Christ, although most Jews of Judea had compromised this command.

(6) For how long were the Israelites commanded to keep Passover? Was it left up to each succeeding generation as to whether and how they would observe it? Exodus 12:24.

Jesus Kept the Passover

(1) Did Jesus’ parents keep the Passover and go to Jerusalem on an annual basis? Luke 2:40-42.

(2) As an adult, did Jesus continue to keep the Passover? John 2:13, 23.

Comment: Since Jesus, before His human birth, had been the LORD or Eternal referred to in the Old Covenant, He obeyed the commands to keep the feasts that He had given to Israel. Christ submitted to the laws of God and to the will of His Father in heaven.

(3) Did Christ faithfully keep the Passover with His disciples up until the time of His death? Matthew 26:19-21; Mark 14:16; Luke 22:14-16.

Christ Introduces a New Ordinance to Passover

As Christ and the disciples were eating the Passover lamb on the eve of His crucifixion, He took this opportunity to show how His Church should observe Passover from that time forward.

(1) What action did Christ perform during the Passover meal? John 13:1-5.

Comment: It was actually “ during supper ” that Christ interrupted the meal in order to demonstrate a new ordinance the disciples were to carry out in each succeeding Passover service. The phrase in verse 2, “ and supper being ended, ” should be translated as “ during supper. ” It was at this point in the meal that the devil put the inclination into Judas Iscariot to betray Christ.

The foot washing ordinance was entirely new, having never been a part of the Passover service. Christ was very passionate about what He knew would be His last Passover with the disciples (Luke 22:14-16) . He went to great lengths to introduce what would be new ordinances for this occasion. In John’s gospel account, which was canonized long after the others, John was aware of the need to write about the ordinance of foot washing.

(2) What was the significance of Peter’s refusal to allow Christ to wash his feet and Christ’s response? John 13:6-9.

Comment: Peter’s impetuous response gave Christ the opportunity to explain that unless one participated fully in this ordinance, then he could have no part with Christ. Once Peter understood this, he went to the opposite extreme. However, Christ emphasized that only the feet were to be washed.

(3) What did Christ stress as the reason for this new ordinance? John 13:12-15.

Comment: In verse 12, after He had washed their feet, Christ asked the disciples, “ do you know what I have done to you? ” In verses 14 to 15, He stressed, “ If I then your Lord and Master have washed your feet, then you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you. ” These were explicit instructions for His servants to keep this ordinance of foot washing — a task normally performed by the lowest servants.

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 December 02, 2008 8:19 AM

The point is undeniable that Christ was also referring to a level of service extending beyond the realm of a Passover ordinance — to the way His servants would live their lives. If Christ extended Himself to the point of laying down His life, they had to be willing to do the same. The Passover ordinance of foot washing carries far more meaning than the physical act. The eleven loyal disciples went on to become apostles and, with the exception of John, eventually laid down their lives.

(4) Did Christ proclaim a blessing associated with keeping this ordinance? John 13:17.

Comment: Concerning the phrase, “ happy are you if you do them, ” the term “ happy ” means more than meets the eye. It comes from the Greek word makarios, which means “ supremely blessed, fortunate, well off, blessed and happy. ” This verse should more appropriately read, “ If you know these things, supremely blessed are you if you do them. ” This is a promised blessing for keeping the ordinance that Christ had just instituted.

New Symbols for Passover Service

(1) At what point during supper did Christ introduce the new symbols? Luke 22:20.

Comment: This verse shows that the new symbols (which constituted another new ordinance) were given “ after supper, ” whereas the ordinance of foot washing had been introduced during supper.

(2) What was the first symbol to be taken after the foot washing had been carried out (and as the supper portion of Christ’s last Passover was drawing to a close) ? Matthew 26:26.

(3) What kind of bread was always eaten during the Passover meal and was broken and given to the disciples? Exodus 12:8; Numbers 9:11.

Comment: The Passover had always been eaten with unleavened bread. Unleavened bread represents being pure from sin and pride, both of which are symbolized by leaven.

(4) What did the broken bread symbolize? Matthew 26:26; I Corinthians 11:24; John 6:58; I Peter 2:24; Isaiah 53:5.

Comment: We find that this broken bread symbolized the broken body of Christ, and that eating that bread is tied to having eternal life (John 6:58) . The broken body is directly related to our physical healing.

(5) What other symbol was introduced along with the broken bread? Matthew 26:27; Luke 22:17-18.

Comment: This “ fruit of the vine ” referred to in Luke 22:18 (also Matthew 26:29) could only have been wine. Many professing Christians insist that this was referring to grape juice. In the spring of the year, the grapes from the former year’s harvest could have only existed as wine, vinegar or syrup. Grape juice simply did not exist beyond 40 days from the time the grapes were harvested. Wine was a prominent drink in ancient Israel and in Judea during Christ’s time (Hastings Dictionary, pp. 973-974) . It was a staple with meals and on special occasions (John 2:1-11) .

(6) What was the significance of drinking a small amount of wine? Matthew 26:27-28; Luke 22:20.

Comment: The wine was symbolic of Christ’s shed blood — the sacrifice of His life — which He as High Priest would later apply to cleanse the sins of those called by God.

(7) Are true Christians to follow Christ’s example in taking the symbols of bread and wine in the Passover service? Luke 22:19-20; I Corinthians 11:24-25.

(8) How often was the Passover service — the memorial of Christ’s death — to be observed? Exodus 12:14; 13:10; Leviticus 23:5; I Corinthians 11:26.

Comment: A memorial is always observed annually or once a year — not every week or month.

The phrase in I Corinthians 11:26, “ for as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup… ” does not mean “ as often as you decide to eat this bread and drink this cup. ” It simply means at every memorial of this event — at Passover, which occurs only once a year. As you take these symbols, you acknowledge and honor Christ’s death until He returns.

Our Passover Lamb

(1) Is Christ explicitly called our Passover lamb or sacrifice? I Corinthians 5:7.

(2) Did the Passover lamb’s blood serve a purpose after it was slain? Exodus 12:6-7.

(3) Why was it necessary for Christ to shed His blood? Hebrews 9:22.

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 December 02, 2008 8:25 AM

(4) Was Christ prophesied to pour out his soul (physical existence dependent upon His life-blood) unto death? Isaiah 53:12; Leviticus 17:11.

Comment: The life of all flesh essentially exists in the blood, as these verses make plain.

The Broken Body of Christ

(1) Why was Christ scourged (beaten with whips containing sharp metallic pieces to tear the flesh) before his crucifixion? John 19:1; Isaiah 52:14.

Comment: Christ was beaten beyond recognition, as “ His visage was so marred more than any man. ” This was prophesied to happen and ties directly to what was stated in Isaiah 53:5 : “ and with His stripes we are healed. ”

(2) How does the broken body of Christ bring about our healing? Isaiah 53:5; I Peter 2:24; I Corinthians 11:29-30.

Comment: The terms “ wounded for our transgressions…bruised for our iniquities ” and “ He bore our sins in His own body ” relate to physical sins or transgressions, which are distinct from the spiritual sins covered by Christ’s blood. The apostle Paul clearly made the connection between the failure to discern the meaning and significance of Christ’s broken body and those who are sick or have died from ill health (I Cor. 11:29-30) . Read James 5:14-15 in regard to healing being tied to the forgiveness of sins. Notice Psalm 103:2-3 with respect to the benefits tied to the meaning of the wine and bread.

True Church Upholds Observance of Passover

(1) Did the early Church refer to “ Easter ” as a benchmark in time, indicating they must have been observing it? Acts 12:4.

Comment: The word “ Easter ” is a mistranslation from the Greek term pascha, which clearly meant “ Passover. ” The same Greek word was correctly translated “ Passover ” over 25 times in other places in the New Testament.

(2) Does secular evidence exist to support that the Church of God continued to keep Passover on the 14th day of the first month — well after the time of the apostles?

Comment: Polycarp, Polycrates and other loyal servants of God refused to compromise God’s commanded feasts.

Polycrates wrote, “ We…therefore observe the genuine day; neither adding thereto nor taking therefrom. For in Asia great lights have fallen asleep which shall rise again in the day of the Lord’s appearing…Moreover, John, who rested upon the bosom of our Lord…also Polycarp…All these observed the fourteenth day of the Passover according to the gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith ” (Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius, bk.5, ch. 24) .



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The Days of Unleavened Bread - Lesson Twenty-Four January 09, 2009 8:24 AM

In the previous lesson, we saw that Christ’s sacrifice, depicted by the Passover, was the beginning of God’s Master Plan of Salvation. Professing Christianity claims that upon acceptance of that sacrifice, the only remaining obligation is to “ just believe. ” Although genuine belief is crucial, there is much more to do in order to qualify for eternal life.

The sacrifice of Christ is what covers the sins of those who truly repent. The definition of sin is found in I John 3:4: “ Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. ” In order to truly repent of sin, one has to stop breaking the Law of God—the Ten Commandments. Christ’s own words in this regard are “ …if you will enter into life, keep the commandments ” (Matt. 19:17) . Once someone has come under the blood of Christ, having been forgiven of past sins, he has the opportunity for a new start.

The very process of coming out of sin is what true Christians must do once their slate has been wiped clean. Even before coming under the sacrifice of Christ, there has to be an acknowledgement and regret of having sinned as a way of life. The process of coming out of sin is not instantaneous—it requires many years of overcoming and character building. This second step of God’s plan is pictured by the Days of Unleavened Bread, which typify putting sin out of our lives.

This lesson will examine the origin and meaning of these days.

The Days of Unleavened Bread

(1) Can valuable lessons be learned from the experiences of ancient Israel as they came out of Egypt? Romans 15:4; I Corinthians 10:1, 5, 11.

(2) In review of the Passover, was the lamb to be eaten at a designated time and was a memorial of this event to be observed at that precise time on an annual basis? Exodus 12:6, 11, 14.

(3) In the wake of the Passover, was Israel commanded to do more? Exodus 12:15-16.

Comment: The first Day of Unleavened Bread immediately followed the Passover. There were seven days of Unleavened Bread, in which the first and seventh days were holy, requiring a convocation or gathering and an offering to be presented to God.

(4) Were the Days of Unleavened Bread only to be kept for a limited time? Exodus 12:17.

(5) What did God further explain had to be done during these seven days? Exodus 13:6-10; Deuteronomy 16:3-4.

Comment: Leaven had to be put out of the Israelites’ homes and away from their property. They were to instruct the following generations about what had happened in Egypt during that time. God’s people were commanded to eat unleavened bread for the entire seven days of Unleavened Bread.

Christ and the Apostles Kept the Days of Unleavened Bread

(1) Did the parents of Jesus Christ keep the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread? Luke 2:41-43.

Comment: Verse 43 states, “ when they had fulfilled the days, ” which meant the Passover and the seven days of Unleavened Bread.

(2) Did Christ observe the Days of Unleavened Bread as an adult? Mark 14:1-2, 12-16.

Comment: Verses 1-2 pertain to the planning of Christ’s enemies to arrest Him. They were well aware that He would be observing the Days of Unleavened Bread. Verses 12-16 show how Christ directed His disciples in arranging for the Passover meal. Passover was observed prior to these days. The same God who commanded Passover to be kept forever also commanded that the Days of Unleavened Bread be kept forever.

Even though the Passover meal required unleavened bread, Passover was not a time of unleavened bread. Although leavened bread could be eaten on this day, by this day’s end, all leaven had to be put out in order to enter the First Day of Unleavened Bread as commanded. The Jews at Christ’s time wrongly counted Passover as a time of unleavened bread (see Mark 14:12) .

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 January 09, 2009 8:34 AM

(3) Did the apostles observe the Days of Unleavened Bread after Christ’s death and resurrection? Acts 12:3; 20:6.

Comment: As the writer of the book of Acts, Luke (Acts 12:3) used this reference as an event that was observed by the true Church. Likewise, this timeframe was used again as Luke was later traveling with Paul in Asia Minor (Acts 20:6) .

(4) Does the Bible contain any explicit command to observe the Days of Unleavened Bread? I Corinthians 5:78.

Comment: Paul was expressing that as Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, we should proceed to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The central meaning of leavening will be discussed in more detail below.

Symbols That Typified Sin

(1) Does Scripture refer to Egypt as being a symbol of sin? Revelation 11:8; Hebrews 11:24-27.

Comment: In Revelation 11:8, the great city (referring to Jerusalem; see also Rev. 16:19) in its sinful state was spiritually compared to Sodom and Egypt. In Hebrews 11:24-27, we find that Moses rejected the pleasures of sin that Egypt had to offer—choosing to obey God and suffer along with His people, while looking beyond the attraction of this temporary evil world.

(2) How was Israel treated in Egypt? Exodus 1:11, 13-14; 2:23.

Comment: All the world has likewise suffered in the bondage of sin, since the time of Adam.

(3) Are those called of God admonished to resist this present evil world and the sin it promotes? I John 2:15-17; Hebrews 12:1-4.

Comment: Resisting and turning from sin in this world requires diligence and sustained effort.

(4) Why did God command Israel not to eat leavened bread (or leaven in any food) during the Days of Unleavened Bread? Exodus 12:15, 20.

Comment: A leavening agent causes bread to rise or become puffed up.

(5) What is wrong with a person being “ puffed up ” ? I Corinthians 5:2, 13:4; Colossians 2:18.

Comment: “ Puffed up ” is a condition of self-exaltation or pride that comes from a sinful or defiant attitude. It is clear that a “ puffed up ” condition results from sin. Just as bread rises as the result of containing leaven, men are “ puffed up ” as a result of sin. Note that it was permissible to eat leavened bread at any other time outside of these days.

Israel Comes Out of Egypt

(1) When and where did Israel begin their exodus out of Egypt? Was Israel very joyous and excited upon first leaving Egypt? Numbers 33:3; Deuteronomy 16:1.

Comment: Rameses was located in Goshen, where the Israelites lived. After having approached the Egyptians on Passover day to “borrow” (Ex. 11:2) treasures from them (actually to receive the fair wages they were never paid as slaves) , they assembled on the night beginning the 15th of Abib. This was the “Night to be Much Observed” as the cloud first formed over the Israelites, providing light by night and shade by day (Ex. 12:42; 13:21-22) . Soon after gathering and organizing according to tribes, they began their journey. Israel disembarked that night and continued traveling through the next day.

(2) To where did Israel go from Rameses? Numbers 33:5.

Comment: They traveled on the route called “Way of the Red Sea” until reaching a point near Succoth (a name which means “temporary dwellings” or “tents” ) . On the following morning, they proceeded to the next campsite.

(3) What was Israel’s next destination after Succoth? Numbers 33:6.

Comment: They continued eastward on the Way of the Red Sea until reaching Etham. Etham was located on this major travel route near the eastern edge of Egypt where the wilderness began.

(4) Where did God instruct Israel to go from Etham? Exodus 14:1-2, Numbers 33:7.

Comment: The logical way out of Egpyt was to continue straight ahead to the east, but at this point, God instructed Israel to “turn” or change direction from where they were previously headed. Apparently, they turned sharply to the south from Etham, just before reaching the region of the Red Sea.



This post was modified from its original form on 09 Jan, 8:35  [ send green star]
 
 January 09, 2009 8:54 AM

(5) As Israel headed south, did God cause Pharaoh to have a change of heart? Exodus 14:8.

Comment: Israel camped in the region of Migdol, as Numbers 33:7 states. Here, the land was more rugged and progress was much slower in this wilderness between Baal-zephon and Migdol, just west of this upper portion of the Red Sea. This Migdol is also mentioned in Jeremiah 44:1 and 46:14 as being in Egypt.

(6) Did the people of Israel panic upon learning that they were trapped by the Egyptians? Exodus 14:10-12.

Comment: As Israel was escaping Egypt, it appeared that the Egyptians had trapped them between the Red Sea to the east and the Pihahiroth mountains to the south (Ex. 14:2-4) . Pharaoh intended to destroy as many of these helpless Israelites as possible with his well-equipped army—the most powerful army in the world at that time. Josephus recorded that the Egyptians who pursued Israel included not only 600 chariots, but 50,000 horsemen and 200,000 footmen (Antiquities, bk. II, ch. 15, par. 3) . Pharaoh had pursued those who were leaving the bondage of Egypt, just as Satan attempts to block anyone’s efforts to flee the bondage of sin. As Egypt typified sin, so did Pharaoh typify Satan.

(7) How did Israel escape their deadly entrapment by the Egyptian army? Exodus 14:13-16.

Comment: Only by God’s miraculous intervention of opening up the Red Sea was Israel delivered from the Egyptians. The seven days of Unleavened Bread (Ex. 12:15) picture leaving spiritual Egypt and completely coming out of sin. Coming out of Egypt required effort on the part of Israel, as well as God’s intervention. Likewise, we have to exert sustained, persistent effort with God’s help to come out of sin.

Commanded Observance of the Days of Unleavened Bread

The day that Israel started their exodus was on the 15th of Abib and the day they completely came out of Egypt was on the 21st of Abib. We will see that both days are commanded to be observed as Holy Days—times of commanded assemblies.

(1) What does God command with respect to the First Day of Unleavened Bread and the day that immediately precedes it? Leviticus 23:4-7; Numbers 28:17-18.

(2) What does God command with respect to the seventh and last day of Unleavened Bread? Leviticus 23:8; Numbers 28:25.

Comment: Both of these Holy Days (also referred to as High Days) fell within the first month of the sacred year, which occurs in the spring. “Abib” was the name of this first month, which was later called “Nisan. ” On these two Holy Days, no servile work was to be done, commanded assemblies were to take place, and special offerings were to be given.

Avoiding Spiritual Leavening

(1) Did the apostle Paul have to address a particularly grievous sin in Corinth on one occasion prior to the Days of Unleavened Bread? I Corinthians 5:1.

(2) Did the brethren who tolerated such sin consider themselves to be especially forgiving and righteous? I Corinthians 5:2.

(3) What did Paul command to be done with the offender in this matter? I Corinthians 5:4-5.

(4) What did Paul command those who had this puffed up condition? I Corinthians 5:6-7.

Comment: After condemning their puffed up condition, Paul warned that even a tiny amount of leaven can leaven a large amount of dough, just as even the smallest sin can corrupt one’s character. He then charged them to purge out the old leavening or put away the leavening, as done about the time Passover arrived (as true Christians practiced both then and now).

Paul was emphasizing the spiritual aspect of putting away the spiritual leaven of sin, pride and self-righteousness, in order to become unleavened, or pure from sin. This analogy would have been useless if the brethren had not been familiar with the putting out of leavening during this season on an annual basis.

(5) Having put away the old leavening, both literally and spiritually, what did Paul command these brethren to do next? I Corinthians 5:8.

Comment: Paul explicitly commanded the Corinthian brethren to keep the Feast. The old leavening, which was thrown out, represented malice and wickedness, while the unleavened condition represented sincerity and truth. The meaning of the Days of Unleavened Bread pointedly defines what God expects of His people—we are to put out sin as a way of life!

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 January 09, 2009 9:00 AM

Kings of Judah Observed the Days of Unleavened Bread

(1) As King Hezekiah ascended to the throne, did he institute needed reforms? II Chronicles 29:3-10.

Comment: Hezekiah feared God and sought to obey Him in all things. Hezekiah charged the priesthood to put the temple in order and to prepare to resume the sacrificial system that had been neglected for many years.

(2) After having kept the Passover, did Judah and those of Israel who journeyed south to join them keep the days of Unleavened Bread with great gladness? II Chronicles 30:21.

(3) After having rejoiced during these days (for the first time in many years), did those of Judah and Israel take counsel to observe another seven days of Unleavened Bread? II Chronicles 30:23.

Comment: Nowhere else in Scripture do we find this ever happening. So joyous was this event that the people celebrated 14 days of Unleavened Bread with God’s approval and blessing!

(4) Did Hezekiah’s great grandson, Josiah, likewise institute reforms after Judah had departed from following God? II Chronicles 34:1-5.

Comment: Josiah deeply sought to obey God, and did so with all his heart.

(5) Did Judah (and the remnants of Israel who had previously relocated to Judah) keep the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread during the reign of Josiah? II Chronicles 35:1, 16-17.

(6) Was that Passover and the following Feast a memorable occasion? II Chronicles 35:18

Comment: The term “Passover” (or Passover season) has often been used to describe both Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. This occasion was so memorable that such a Passover had not occurred in all Israel since the time of Samuel, about 500 years before that time. This was surely a joyous time of celebration and heartfelt worship of God. After having been deprived of the worship of the true God for a number of decades, the people once again rejoiced to worship Him according to His laws and statutes.

Far from being a burden, worship of the true God in the true manner is indeed a joyous privilege for those who come to (or return to) follow His Way wholeheartedly.

In the next lesson, we will examine the next Holy Day in God’s Plan, the Day of Pentecost.

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 February 09, 2009 9:19 AM

The third step in God’s Plan of Salvation is pictured by the Feast of Pentecost. As we progress through each of the seven Feasts, the pattern of this overall Plan for mankind will become clearer. Those who do not have the knowledge of these Feast days are unable to understand the purpose of human life.

Passover is the annual memorial of the sacrifice of Christ—and includes the vital symbols of the bread and wine and the ordinance of humility that Christ introduced in His last Passover on the eve of His crucifixion. Christ’s sacrifice makes possible the forgiveness of one’s past sins and the opportunity for a completely new start, living in harmony with God’s will. This constitutes the first step in the Plan of Salvation.

The Days of Unleavened Bread picture God’s people coming out of sin, just as ancient Israel coming out of Egypt typified coming out of sin. This is the second step in the Plan of Salvation. But another vital step is necessary in order to successfully overcome sin in this physical life. We will find that this missing element, central to the Day of Pentecost, is the Holy Spirit—the very power of God.

Early Spring Harvest Begins With Wave Sheaf Offering

The seven feasts are tied to the two harvest seasons in the region of Judea. The first season is the small spring harvest, followed later by the main harvest that occurs in the fall. The spring harvest is very small compared to the large fall harvest. It begins during the Days of Unleavened Bread and ends by the time of Pentecost-also called the “ Feast of Firstfruits, ” and the “ Feast of Weeks. ” The latter name reflects how the time of this feast was derived by counting seven Sabbaths, covering seven weeks. The term “Pentecost” is derived from the Greek language and means “ count fifty. ”

Before the spring harvest (or firstfruits harvest) began, the wave sheaf offering had to take place. This offering always occurred on the first day of the week following the weekly Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread. This wave sheaf offering of barley was the very first of the firstfruits brought to the priest to be presented before God. Barley was most always used in the wave sheaf offering because it was the first grain to mature and be ready for harvest in early spring.

(1) What did the wave sheaf offering represent? Leviticus 23:10-11; John 20:17; I Corinthians 15:20-23.

Comment: In John 20:17, Christ had already been resurrected and had first manifested Himself in human form to Mary Magdalene. He had been resurrected three days and three nights from Wednesday evening just before sunset—near the end of the weekly Sabbath. Note that He had not yet ascended to the Father, but had revealed Himself to Mary (vs. 1, 11) . He indicated that she could not touch Him at that particular time, because He had not yet ascended to His Father.

(2) Were the disciples permitted to touch Christ later that same day? Matthew 28:9.

Comment: Since the disciples were allowed to touch Christ, He had to have been accepted by the Father by that time. As a Spirit Being, Christ had ascended to heaven and returned instantly once He had been accepted. As the fulfillment of the wave sheaf offering, He was accepted on the first day of the week (see John 20:19) , just as the wave sheaf was always offered and accepted on that same day (see Lev. 23:11) .

Pentecost: The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit

(1) Did Christ promise His disciples that after His departure, He would not leave them comfortless, but would send them spiritual help? John 14:16-18.

(2) Did Christ repeat this promise of sending forth spiritual power, even after His resurrection? Luke 24:49; John 20:21-22; Acts 1:8.

(3) On what day did Christ send the Holy Spirit to His disciples? Acts 2:1-4.

(4) What was the reaction of the devout Jews who witnessed these miraculous events? Acts 2:5-12.

Comment: This Day of Pentecost in A.D. 31 was the beginning of the Church of God. The disciples who had been trained by Christ for 3½ years had received the Holy Spirit and began to fulfill their responsibilities as apostles. The sending forth of God’s Spirit is the central meaning of Pentecost. This feast also depicts the small early spring harvest, which typifies those called into God’s Church in this age as firstfruits. The vast majority of humanity will only be called during the Millennium and at the second resurrection, after the close of the Millennium. Only a tiny minority are called now to fulfill special purposes in God’s Plan of Salvation.

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 February 09, 2009 9:29 AM

Apostolic Church Kept Pentecost

(1) Was Pentecost commanded to be kept forever, just as Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread? Leviticus 23:14, 21.

Comment: When God says “forever” ,this is precisely what He means. We will see that the Holy Days will be observed in the coming millennium, contrary to the opinions of critics who denounce them as temporary “Jewish days” that were “done away with” .

(2) Did the apostles come together in Jerusalem for the Day of Pentecost? Acts 2:1.

Comment: In this particular case, they were among the many thousands of devout Jews assembled for the purpose of manifesting the power of God.

(3) Is there evidence that the Church in this era continued to keep Pentecost? Acts 20:16; I Corinthians 16:8.

Comment: Pentecost is mentioned in these two places after the event recorded in Acts 2. In Acts 20:16, Luke recorded that Paul was determined to keep this feast in Jerusalem. I Corinthians 16:8 shows Paul informing the Church at Corinth that he would stay in Ephesus until Pentecost. All the Holy Days were important milestones and the apostles often used these days as benchmarks in time. One more important reference is often overlooked due to a mistranslation. In apostolic times, this Holy Day was often referred to as the “day of weeks” . The day of weeks was another term for the Feast of Weeks, also called the Feast of Firstfruits and Pentecost by those who spoke Greek.

Counting Pentecost

We have already seen that the wave sheaf offering depicts the beginning of the small spring harvest, which represents those few now being called as firstfruits. Now we need to understand how Pentecost was counted in order to arrive at the correct date each year.

(1) Upon what day was the wave sheaf offering made each year? Leviticus 23:10-11.

Comment: “The morrow after the Sabbath” meant the first day of the week, or Sunday. The context of this verse falls within the timeframe of the Days of Unleavened Bread, as verse 8 summarized the seven days and that the seventh day was a time of holy convocation. The Sabbath referred to in verse 11 could have only been the weekly Sabbath that fell within the Days of Unleavened Bread. If it were counted from either one of the Holy Days (first or seventh), then Pentecost would always fall on the same day of the month year after year and would not have to be counted.

(2) How was the count made from the day of the wave sheaf offering in order to arrive at Pentecost? Leviticus 23:15-16.

Comment: We are to begin counting on the day after the Sabbath (day of the Wave Sheaf offering) and to number seven Sabbaths (or weeks) from that day. The target day is clearly stated in verse 16, which shows that we are to number “even unto the day after the seventh Sabbath” . Clearly, the target day is the day that follows the seventh Sabbath—the first day of the week following that Sabbath.

Why Many Miscount Pentecost

The sacred calendar does not designate a specific day in the month of Sivan on which Pentecost always falls. This is why a count is necessary. It is crucial that the first day of the week upon which the wave sheaf offering was to fall always occurred during the Days of Unleavened Bread. It could not be before or after the time span of these seven Days of Unleavened Bread.

Two Hebrew terms are translated as the English word “Sabbath” . The first is Shabbat. At the time of Moses, it meant the weekly Sabbath day or an annual Sabbath (or Holy Day). Later, after the time of Hellenistic influence over Judea in the 2nd century B.C., Shabbat came to mean “week” . By the time of the New Testament, it had come to be used interchangeably for both “week” and “Sabbath day” in the Greek language.

But using the word originally intended to mean “Sabbath” and designating it as “week” (Lev. 23:15-16) led to an error that some made in counting Pentecost. In context, the term Sabbaths could be defined as “weeks” (vs. 15) without changing the meaning. This is referring to the phrase “seven Sabbaths shall be complete” . But to interpret the other two words in verses 15 and 16 as “week” completely changes the meaning. This is referring to the phrase “the morrow after the Sabbath” , as occurs in both verses.

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 February 09, 2009 9:38 AM

The second of the two Hebrew terms sometimes translated “Sabbath” is the term shavuah or shabuwa. Even in Deuteronomy 16:9, which also instructs how to count Pentecost, the word translated “weeks” comes from shavuah. During the time of Moses, the word for “week” was shavuah, meaning a period of seven days. The plural for shavuah is shavout. Thus, the Feast of Weeks is called the Feast of Shavuot. To this day, Jews call this Holy Day “Shavuot” .

It is crucial that such terms are interpreted according to their original meaning in order to avoid error in counting Pentecost. Now we will see how certain Jewish sects arrived at the wrong date of Pentecost by not following scripture verbatim.

The Pharisees’ method was adopted by the rabbinic Jewish tradition and is followed by most Jews today. The Pharisees chose as their wave sheaf offering the day following the first High Day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, regardless of the day of the week it fell on. They chose not to establish the wave sheaf offering on the day following the weekly Sabbath. Thus, their Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) always fell on Sivan 6. Using their method, it was not necessary to count Pentecost, as it would have been if done correctly.

Another sect, the Falashas of Ethiopia, also based their count on a Holy Day instead of the day after the weekly Sabbath. In this case, they established the wave sheaf offering on the first day of the week that followed the Last Day of Unleavened Bread. Therefore, upon counting fifty days, they always observed Pentecost one week late.

Still another sect, the Qumrans, counted from the day following the Last Day of Unleavened Bread regardless of the day of the week it fell on. In this case, Pentecost always fell on the same day and was not necessary to count. The calendar used by the Qumrans was so distorted that not only was Pentecost kept on the wrong day, but also Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread.

The Jewish sects that observed Pentecost on the correct day included the Sadducees and the Karites (or Qaraites). The high priests who served during the time of Christ (and continuing until A.D. 70) were the Sadducees. They were in charge of the temple at the time of Pentecost in A.D. 31. By keeping the correct day of Pentecost, as thousands of devout Jews gathered in Jerusalem, the stage was set for Christ to miraculously manifest the power of God. The Karites had emerged from rabbinical Judaism and came to reject it in about the 8th century A.D. They returned to the Scriptures as their basic authority, a move that was unheard of in the history of Judaism. Historical evidence shows that the Karites could well have been influenced by the Pergamos Era of the true Church of God. Those of this era—the third of seven eras of God’s Church (Rev. 2-3) — were known as “Paulicians” , based on their leader’s respect and admiration for the apostle Paul’s writings. (To learn more about them, you may wish to read our book The History of the True Church) .

Why the Early Harvest Represents So Very Few

(1) In what capacity are the twelve apostles to serve in the coming Kingdom of God? Matthew 19:28.

(2) Are those called in this age qualifying to rule over cities? Luke 19:12-19.

(3) Are those called in this age destined to judge the world and even angels in the future? I Corinthians 6:2-3.

(4) Will God’s faithful servants reign in the Kingdom of God as kings and priests? Revelation 5:10.

Comment: Those whom God is calling now are preparing to serve in the Kingdom of God as teachers and instructors-as kings and priests. The number of those serving in the government of God is understandably far smaller than the number of their subjects.

(5) Why do even highly educated people in the world have difficulty understanding Scripture, failing to grasp its true meaning? Isaiah 28:9-13; Matthew 13:10-16.

(6) Do we find the vast majority of humanity in a state of blindness in this age? II Corinthians 2:14; 4:4; Romans 11:7.

Comment: Only those whom Christ is working with have their minds opened to the truth. The rest remain blind until the time God will begin to work with them. The following scriptures reveal much of these little understood reasons why the current blindness serves God’s overall purpose: Romans 11:26, 29-33; II Peter 3:9.

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 February 09, 2009 9:41 AM

Firstfruits Qualifying for the First Resurrection

(1) Are those called out of the world by God in this age known as firstfruits? James 1:18; Revelation 14:4.

(2) Do we find examples of specific brethren being referred to as firstfruits in Scripture? Romans 16:5; I Corinthians 16:15.

Comment: The small spring harvest of the firstfruits did not begin until the high priest presented the wave sheaf offering (the first of the firstfruits) for God to accept. Likewise, the harvest of the firstfruits in God’s Plan of Salvation did not begin until Christ was accepted as the First of the Firstfruits.

This small harvest of the firstfruits will not take place until the Return of Christ. The intervening period of 50 days between the acceptance of the wave sheaf and the completion of the harvest symbolizes the nearly two millennia that will have elapsed in which the firstfruits will have overcome and qualified to rule in the Kingdom of God.

(3) What was the meaning of the two loaves of bread offered at the Feast of Firstfruits? Leviticus 23:17.

Comment: The two loaves of bread represented the times of the Old Testament Church and the times of the New Testament Church (called out ones). In the offering at this Feast, one loaf portrayed ancient Israel and the other loaf portrayed the true Church. The fact that both loaves contained leavening shows that even those called after the time of Christ are in the process of overcoming sin and developing character.

In Summary

God gave the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai on the Feast of Pentecost. Although the Law was written in stone at that time (Ex. 31:18) , those whom God calls into His Church are to have the Law written in their hearts (Jer. 31:33) .

This is made possible with the power of the Holy Spirit, also given to the Church of God on this same day. A review of Lesson 16 of this course (on the subject of the Holy Spirit) would be helpful as we conclude the third step in God’s Plan of Salvation, portrayed by Pentecost.

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