How Do We Apply the Feast Days Today?

by sighandcry on February 21, 2016


At a recent early morning Sabbath School lesson study the teacher made several references to the importance of the ceremonial sabbaths in addition to the Seventh-day Sabbath but stopped short of explaining how they are to be applied today after the cross. He also made a point about the pope addressing the US Congress on the day of atonement. These and several other signs strongly suggest that this new teacher is trying to subtly bring in teaching about the need to keep the feast days today in some sort of literal sense. In response we will be posting a two part study to address the problems of not understanding how these ceremonial harvests apply to the church today.

The subject of keeping the feast days at their appointed times is being increasingly agitated as a wind of doctrine within Seventh-day Adventist circles, the most visible proponent being John L. VanDenburgh of Bible Explorations from California. Claims are being made that these Jewish holidays are statutes that are part of the moral law and therefore binding upon us today.  Some say that in order to be translated one has to be a feast keeper. Others suggest that keeping the ceremonial law was the missing element in the 1888 message brought by Elders A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner. To add to the confusion a myriad of false teachers, especially within conservative Adventist circles, are drawing converts to their way of thinking by strongly emphasizing certain passages from scripture saying that we have to literally keep the feast days at certain appointed days of the year. In Part 1 of this post we will study what law got nailed to the cross and how to understand the application of the feast days today, only in antitype, not in a literal sense. In Part 2 we will investigate some of the principle arguments coming from feast keepers and how they grossly misinterpret key Bible texts and statements from the Spirit of Prophecy. Most importantly will be to determine which statutes are still binding today and which were done away with at the cross.

What got nailed to the cross?

The ordinances that were nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14) include the feasts as shown by the following scriptures.

“For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I [am] the LORD. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye [are]: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy [you], when I smite the land of Egypt. And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.”—Exo. 12:12-14

“Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in his season from year to year.”—Exo. 13:10

And if a stranger shall sojourn among you, and will keep the passover unto the LORD; according to the ordinance of the passover, and according to the manner thereof, so shall he do: ye shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger, and for him that was born in the land.”—Num. 9:14

“And the king went up into the house of the LORD, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, both small and great: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the LORD… And the king commanded all the people, saying, Keep the passover unto the LORD your God, as [it is] written in the book of this covenant.”—2 Kings 23:2, 21

“There are many who try to blend these two systems, using the texts that speak of the ceremonial law to prove that the moral law has been abolished; but this is a perversion of the Scriptures. The distinction between the two systems is broad and clear. The ceremonial system was made up of symbols pointing to Christ to his sacrifice and his priesthood. This ritual law, with its sacrifices and ordinances, was to be performed by the Hebrews until type met antitype in the death of Christ, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. Then all the sacrificial offerings were to cease. It is this law that Christ ‘took out of the way, nailing it to his cross.’ But concerning the law of ten commandments the psalmist declares, ‘Forever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, pg. 365

“The moral law was never a type or a shadow. It existed before man’s creation, and will endure as long as God’s throne remains. God could not change nor alter one precept of His law in order to save man; for the law is the foundation of His government. It is unchangeable, unalterable, infinite, and eternal. In order for man to be saved, and for the honor of the law to be maintained, it was necessary for the Son of God to offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin. He who knew no sin became sin for us. He died for us on Calvary. His death shows the wonderful love of God for man, and the immutability of His law.”—Selected Messages, Vol. 1, pgs. 239-40

Crucial to Understand Type versus Antitype

Before we enter further into our study it is very important to have a clear understanding of the meaning and definition of a type and an antitype and to know the similarities and difference between them. This is one of the major sources of confusion regarding how we are to keep the ceremonial feast days today. Some of the common meanings for a “type” are:

“By way of example”—R.V. •

“By way of figure.”—R.V. Margin. •

“But these things occurred to them typically.”—• Emphatic Diaglott.

“All this kept happening to them with a figurative • meaning.”—Weymouth.

Type is defined as: “a figure, emblem, or symbol; a symbol or figure of something to come; a pattern.”

Figure is defined as something: “to prefigure; to foreshadow; to represent by typical or figurative resemblance; a pattern, emblem, type, image, or imitation.”

A type is a literal representation of a spiritual fact. Baptism is called “a figure” of the resurrection (1 Pet. 3:21); the first Adam “the figure of Him who was to come,” that is, the second Adam (Rom. 5:14). “In Adam we have a type of Him whose coming was still future.”—Weymouth. The earthly sanctuary and its services and priesthood are said to be a “figure” of the heavenly sanctuary and the ministration of Christ (Heb. 9:8, 9, 24).

However, a type and antitype are never identical, only similar. In fact there must be differences in many respects. “As there must be a similarity or analogy between the type and antitype, so there is also a diversity or dissimilitude between them. It is not in the nature of the types and antitypes that they should agree in all things; else, instead of similitude, there would be identity. Hence the apostle, whilst making Adam a type for Christ, yet shows how differently the latter excelled the former (1 Cor, 15:47). So the priests of the old were types of Christ, though He infinitely excelled them.” (Popular and Critical Bible Encyclopedia, under the article “Type.”) As we examine the question on how we are to observe the ceremonial feast law of Moses today in antitype, it is crucial to keep in mind this distinction as it will help clear the muddy waters of confusion that surround this topic.

The Passover

Type: Deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian captivity (Lev. 23:5-8).

Antitype: The deliverance of antitypical Israel, the S. D. A. church (Testimonies, Vol. 9,p. 164), from the antitypical Egypt, the world of sin today. (see chart at the end of this compilation for both antitypes that includes Christ).

“When God was about to smite the first-born of Egypt, He commanded the Israelites to gather their children from among the Egyptians into their own dwellings and strike their door posts with blood, that the destroying angel might see it and pass over their homes. It was the work of parents to gather in their children. This is your work, this is my work, and the work of every mother who believes the truth. The angel is to place a mark upon the forehead of all who are separated from sin and sinners, and the destroying angel will follow, to slay utterly both old and young.

God is not pleased with our inattention and trifling with His blessings placed within our reach. Neither is He pleased to have us place our children in worldly society, because this best suits their tastes and inclinations. If the souls of your children are saved, you must do your work with fidelity. God has not been wholly pleased with your course in regard to worldly associations, and now the peril is revealed.”—Testimonies for the Church Vol. 5, pp. 505-06

To keep the Passover today in antitype means to receive the mark (seal) of all those “that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof” and escape the purification of the church as described in the ninth chapter of Ezekiel.

“The true people of God, who have the spirit of the work of the Lord and the salvation of souls at heart, will ever view sin in its real, sinful character. They will always be on the side of faithful and plain dealing with sins which easily beset the people of God. Especially in the closing work for the church, in the sealing time of the one hundred and forty-four thousand who are to stand without fault before the throne of God, will they feel most deeply the wrongs of God’s professed people. This is forcibly set forth by the prophet’s illustration of the last work under the figure of the men each having a slaughter weapon in his hand. One man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer’s inkhorn by his side. “And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.”

Who are standing in the counsel of God at this time? Is it those who virtually excuse wrongs among the professed people of God and who murmur in their hearts, if not openly, against those who would reprove sin? Is it those who take their stand against them and sympathize with those who commit wrong? No, indeed! Unless they repent, and leave the work of Satan in oppressing those who have the burden of the work and in holding up the hands of sinners in Zion, they will never receive the mark of God’s sealing approval. They will fall in the general destruction of the wicked, represented by the work of the five men bearing slaughter weapons. Mark this point with care: Those who receive the pure mark of truth, wrought in them by the power of the Holy Ghost, represented by a mark by the man in linen, are those “that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done” in the church. Their love for purity and the honor and glory of God is such, and they have so clear a view of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, that they are represented as being in agony, even sighing and crying. Read the ninth chapter of Ezekiel.

But the general slaughter of all those who do not thus see the wide contrast between sin and righteousness, and do not feel as those do who stand in the counsel of God and receive the mark, is described in the order to the five men with slaughter weapons: “Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at My sanctuary.”—Testimonies for the Church Vol. 3, pp. 266-67

The Feast of Tabernacles

Type: The dwelling in booths to commemorative the end of the harvest season (Lev. 23:33-43).

Antitype: The dwelling in the promised land of the redeemed (the kingdom) to celebrate the final harvest of souls at the end of the world.

“Like the Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles was commemorative. In memory of their pilgrim life in the wilderness the people were now to leave their houses and dwell in booths, or arbors, formed from the green branches “of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook.” Leviticus 23:40, 42, 43.

The first day was a holy convocation, and to the seven days of the feast an eighth day was added, which was observed in like manner.

At these yearly assemblies the hearts of old and young would be encouraged in the service of God, while the association of the people from the different quarters of the land would strengthen the ties that bound them to God and to one another. Well would it be for the people of God at the present time to have a Feast of Tabernacles–a joyous commemoration of the blessings of God to them. As the children of Israel celebrated the deliverance that God had wrought for their fathers, and His miraculous preservation of them during their journeyings from Egypt, so should we gratefully call to mind the various ways He has devised for bringing us out from the world, and from the darkness of error, into the precious light of His grace and truth.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 540-41

“God gave direction to the Israelites to assemble before Him at set periods, in the place which He should choose, and observe special days wherein no unnecessary work was to be done, but the time was to be devoted to a consideration of the blessings which He had bestowed upon them. At these special seasons they were to bring gifts, freewill offerings, and thank offerings unto the Lord, according as He had blessed them… Besides these special religious feast days of gladness and rejoicing, the yearly Passover was to be commemorated by the Jewish nation. The Lord covenanted that if they were faithful in the observance of His requirements, He would bless them in all their increase and in all the work of their hands.

God requires no less of His people in these last days, in sacrifices and offerings, than He did of the Jewish nation… Let all who possibly can, attend these yearly gatherings. All should feel that God requires this of them. If they do not avail themselves of the privileges which He has provided that they may become strong in Him and in the power of His grace, they will grow weaker and weaker, and have less and less desire to consecrate all to God. Come, brethren and sisters, to these sacred convocation meetings, to find Jesus. He will come up to the feast. He will be present, and He will do for you that which you most need to have done. . . . These camp meetings are of importance.”—Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2, pp. 574-76

This part of keeping the feast of tabernacles today in antitype involves meeting together for annual convocations (camp meetings) where “the hearts of old and young would be encouraged in the service of God, while the association of the people from the different quarters of the land would strengthen the ties that bound them to God and to one another.” In no manner does inspiration specify that S. D. A. camp meetings were to be held at the appointed time for the annual feasts kept in the Old Testament. If you search the statistical archives of the S. D. A. church you will find that camp meetings were usually held in the seasonal part of the year which depending the location could range anywhere from April to September, with most meetings occurring during the summer months (June-August). Thus, we can find no historical or theological basis to have our camp meetings or holy convocations specifically during either the spring or fall feast days according to some Hebrew calendar. Furthermore we are not instructed by inspiration to keep any of the rituals associated with these feasts, such as burnt offerings, sin offerings, drink offerings, meat offerings, peace offerings, or trespass offerings.

Another part of keeping the feast of tabernacles in antitype for us as Seventh-day Adventists today involves leaving the cities where corruption and gross immorality abound and relocating in the country where a better environment for raising and training children is possible. Furthermore, it will also apply to the experience of the Great Multitude during the time of trouble as described in the passages below.

With a Piece of Land and a Comfortable Home.– When-ever possible, it is the duty of parents to make homes in the country for their children. Fathers and mothers who possess a piece of land and a comfortable home are kings and queens. Do not consider it a privation when you are called to leave the cities and move out into the country places. Here there await rich blessings for those who will grasp them.

Contributes to Economic Security.–Again and again the Lord has instructed that our people are to take their families away from the cities, into the country, where they can raise their own provisions; for in the future the problem of buying and selling will be a very serious one. We should now begin to heed the instruction given us over and over again: Get out of the cities into rural districts, where the houses are not crowded closely together, and where you will be free from the interference of enemies. (For further detailed counsel on this topic see Country Living.)”—Adventist Home, p. 141

“In the time of trouble we all fled from the cities and villages, but were pursued by the wicked, who entered the houses of the saints with a sword. They raised the sword to kill us, but it broke, and fell as powerless as a straw. Then we all cried day and night for deliverance, and the cry came up before God.”—Early Writings, pp. 33-34

“I saw the saints leaving the cities and villages, and associating together in companies, and living in the most solitary places. Angels provided them food and water, while the wicked were suffering from hunger and thirst. Then I saw the leading men of the earth consulting together, and Satan and his angels busy around them. I saw a writing, copies of which were scattered in different parts of the land, giving orders that unless the saints should yield their peculiar faith, give up the Sabbath, and observe the first day of the week, the people were at liberty after a certain time to put them to death. But in this hour of trial the saints were calm and composed, trusting in God and leaning upon His promise that a way of escape would be made for them. In some places, before the time for the decree to be executed, the wicked rushed upon the saints to slay them; but angels in the form of men of war fought for them. Satan wished to have the privilege of destroying the saints of the Most High; but Jesus bade His angels watch over them. God would be honored by making a covenant with those who had kept His law, in the sight of the heathen round about them; and Jesus would be honored by translating, without their seeing death, the faithful, waiting ones who had so long expected Him.”—Early Writings, p. 282.2

The final and perfect fulfillment of keeping the feast of tabernacles will happen after probation closes and all of the saints of God are gathered in the kingdom (Zech. 14:16, 18-19).

“The Feast of Tabernacles was not only commemorative but typical. It not only pointed back to the wilderness sojourn, but, as the feast of harvest, it celebrated the ingathering of the fruits of the earth, and pointed forward to the great day of final ingathering, when the Lord of the harvest shall send forth His reapers to gather the tares together in bundles for the fire, and to gather the wheat into His garner.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 541

“Christ had many truths to give to His disciples of which he could not speak, because they did not advance with the light that was flashed upon the Levitical laws and the sacrificial offerings. They did not embrace the light, advance with the light, and follow on to still greater brightness as Providence should lead the way. And for the same reason Christ’s disciples today do not comprehend important matters of truth. So dull has been the comprehension of even those who teach the truth to others that many things cannot be opened to them until they reach heaven. It ought not to be so! But as minds become narrow, they think they know it all, and set one stake after another in points of truths of which they have only a glimpse. People close their minds as though there were no more for them to learn, and should the LORD attempt to lead them on they would not take up with the increased light. They cling to the spot where they think they see a glimmer of light, when it is only a link in the living chain of truths and promises to be studied….The development of truth will be the reward to the humble-hearted seeker who will fear God and walk with Him. The truth that the mind grasps as truth is capable of constant expansion and new development. Manusript 143, 1897 (Manuscript Releases, vol. 16, pp.122-23)

For a more systematic study on the application of the ceremonial harvest to the latter day judgment, please visit our earlier post on “The Ceremonial Harvest and the Feast Days”. A Bible study outline and reading material are provided.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Ahmad Johnson February 22, 2016 at 1:54 am

Can you please do a write up on the lunar Sabbaths and why we don’t have to keep them today? I know of a sister that is trying to prove to me why we must keep the lunar Sabbaths. I referred her to the tract “the sign of Jonah” but she still won’t listen.

sighandcry February 27, 2016 at 9:46 pm

Dear Ahmad:

Thank you for your request. We will try to put together a brief paper exposing the problems with the lunar Sabbaths doctrine which is taught by some factions of the counterfeit branch davidians and other groups outside of Adventism. Below is a link to a messianic Jewish website that thoroughly refutes the lunar Sabbath doctrine from scripture. The important point to recognize is that the 7th day Sabbath is based on a weekly cycle established at creation which is independent of the lunar cycles which determine lunar sabbaths that arise on any day of the week depending on which month you are in. To attempt to mix the two cycles brings in terrible confusion indeed.

Yours to stand strong for the truth, come what may. The Publishers

Albert Vira September 25, 2017 at 6:32 am

There are 7 feasts altogether. can you give me some reference on where prophet houteff comments on all the 7 feasts.

sighandcry October 28, 2017 at 7:16 pm

The original Shepherd’s Rod message focuses primarily on the antitypical application of the three principle feasts found in Leviticus chapter 23, Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles the most detailed explanation is found in Tract No. 3, pp. 72-88. The feasts in connection with the Hebrew calendar are discussed in Answerer Book No. 3, pp. 8-19 links to which are provided below.

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