Statutes and Feasts

Research By Elder David Horger, Shingle Springs SDA Church

 

There exists among members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church today those who believe that the feast days recorded in the books of Moses apply equally to the Christian today as well as to the children of Israel. This document was produced to explore the applicability of the Old Testament statutes and ordinances, primarily the feasts, to the Christian today. It is not intended to be the “last word” on the subject, but my own thoughts and concerns regarding this new teaching. Please consider it simply as my contribution to the discussion. All scriptures included are taken from the New King James Version.

 

Let’s first examine the feasts and identify certain characteristics they had.

 

The Old Testament Feast Days

 

  1. The feasts were commemorations of events in Jewish history, beginning with the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt, as well as object lessons of Christ and His work. They did not pre-date the Jewish nation; therefore God’s people living before their introduction were not subject to them.

    1. The Feast of Passover
      1 "Observe the month of Abib, and keep the Passover to the LORD your God, for in the month of Abib the LORD your God brought you out of Egypt by night. 2Therefore you shall sacrifice the Passover to the LORD your God, from the flock and the herd, in the place where the LORD chooses to put His name.” Deuteronomy 16:1,2

The observance of the Passover began with the birth of the Hebrew nation. On the last night of their bondage in Egypt, when there appeared no token of deliverance, God commanded them to prepare for an immediate release… The Lord had commanded that the Passover should be yearly kept. “It shall come to pass,” He said, “when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when He smote the Egyptians.”  Thus from generation to generation the story of this wonderful deliverance was to be repeated.” Desire of Ages, p. 76

  1.  
    1. The Feast of Unleavened Bread
      3You shall eat no leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it, that is, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), that you may remember the day in which you came out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life.” Deuteronomy 16:3

    2. The Feast of Firstfruits

“9 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 10"Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: "When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest.” Leviticus 23:9-10

  1.  
    1. The Feast of Weeks
      9 "You shall count seven weeks for yourself; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain. 10Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the LORD your God blesses you. 12And you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes.” Deuteronomy 16:9,10,12

    2. The Feast of Trumpets
      23 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 24"Speak to the children of Israel, saying: "In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. 25You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD."' Leviticus 23:23-25

    3. The Feast of Tabernacles
      33 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 34"Speak to the children of Israel, saying: "The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the LORD… 42You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 43that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God."' Leviticus 23:33, 34, 43

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.” Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 540

 

  1.  
    1. The Day of Atonement
      [It must be noted that the Day of Atonement was not a memorial of a past event, but rather an illustration of a future event, the pre-advent judgment and ultimately the transference of the guilt and penalty of sin to it’s true owner, Satan. The function of the Day of Atonement was a yearly cleansing of the Tabernacle of the sins symbolically placed there. In the absence of an Earthly tabernacle and with the knowledge that we currently reside in the antitypical Day of Atonement since 1844, the continued application of this feast after the redeeming sacrifice of Christ is questionable.]

      1 For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. 2For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. 3But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sin.” “11 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. 14For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” Hebrews 10:1-4, 11-14

 

  1. The feasts were also illustrations, or types, of the life and work of the Messiah.

    1. “The Passover was followed by the seven days' feast of unleavened bread. On the second day of the feast, the first fruits of the year's harvest, a sheaf of barley, was presented before the Lord. All the ceremonies of the feast were types of the work of Christ. The deliverance of Israel from Egypt was an object lesson of redemption, which the Passover was intended to keep in memory. The slain lamb, the unleavened bread, the sheaf of first fruits, represented the Saviour.” E.G. White, Desire of Ages, p.77

    2. “While the institution of the Passover was pointing backward to the miraculous deliverance of the Hebrews, it likewise pointed forward, showing the death of the Son of God before it transpired. In the last Passover our Lord observed with His disciples, He instituted the Lord's Supper in place of the Passover, to be observed in memory of His death. No longer had they need of the Passover, for He, the great antitypical Lamb, was ready to be sacrificed for the sins of the world. Type met antitype in the death of Christ.” Lift Him Up, p. 31

    3. “Christ arose from the dead as the first fruits of those that slept. He was the antitype of the wave sheaf, and His resurrection took place on the very day when the wave sheaf was to be presented before the Lord. For more than a thousand years this symbolic ceremony had been performed.” Desire of Ages, p. 786

 

  1. The feasts are ceremonial in nature, making them a part of the “ceremonial law” rather than the “moral law”.

    1. “And if a stranger dwells among you, and would keep the LORD's Passover, he must do so according to the rite of the Passover and according to its ceremony; you shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger and the native of the land.” Numbers 9:14

    2. “On the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight, you shall keep it at its appointed time. According to all its rites and ceremonies you shall keep it.” Numbers 9:3

 

  1. The feast statutes included animal sacrifices that illustrated the death of the Messiah.

    1. Passover
      ”Sacrifice as the Passover to the LORD your God an animal from your flock or herd at the place the LORD will choose as a dwelling for his Name.” Deuteronomy 16:2

    2. The Feast of Firstfruits
      ”And you shall offer on that day, when you wave the sheaf, a male lamb of the first year, without blemish, as a burnt offering to the Lord.” Leviticus 23:12

    3. The Feast of Weeks
      18And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs of the first year, without blemish, one young bull, and two rams. They shall be as a burnt offering to the LORD, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma to the LORD. 19Then you shall sacrifice one kid of the goats as a sin offering, and two male lambs of the first year as a sacrifice of a peace offering. 20The priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the LORD for the priest.” Leviticus 23:18-20

    4. The Feast of Trumpets
      ”You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.” Leviticus 23:25

    5. The Day of Atonement
      ”Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house.” Leviticus 16:6

    6. The Feast of Tabernacles
      ”For seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it.” Leviticus 23:36

 

Nowhere in scripture is recorded modified instructions for the keeping of these feasts without the sacrifices. If the feasts are to be kept according to the statutes, animal sacrifices must be made. Yet if we were to offer animals as a sacrifice for sin after the death of Christ, would we not then be denying the “one sacrifice for sins forever” [Hebrews 10:12]? It is certainly possible to honor the date and the event it memorializes, but if one omits the required sacrifices he is not obeying the statutes.

 

  1. Some feasts required mandatory attendance in Jerusalem by all the men.

    1. “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed.” Deuteronomy 16:16

 

God’s instructions regarding mandatory attendance may indicate that He did not intend for the feasts to be in effect at the time when the Gospel would be preached in all the world, at which time travel to a central spot would be impossible for many. Also, for much of the time since the death of Christ Jerusalem would be inaccessible to Jewish and Christian believers. Would God require of His people something they could not accomplish?

 

  1. Jesus apparently did not esteem the feasts as having an equal standing with the Ten Commandments.

  2. “As the sons of Joseph made preparation to attend the Feast of Tabernacles, they saw that Christ made no movement signifying His intention of attending. They watched Him with anxiety. Since the healing at Bethesda He had not attended the national gatherings. To avoid useless conflict with the leaders at Jerusalem, He had restricted His labors to Galilee. His apparent neglect of the great religious assemblies, and the enmity manifested toward Him by the priests and rabbis, were a cause of perplexity to the people about Him, and even to His own disciples and His kindred. In His teachings He had dwelt upon the blessings of obedience to the law of God, and yet He Himself seemed to be indifferent to the service which had been divinely established.” E. G. White, Desire of Ages, p. 450

 

 

Statutes and Ordinances

 

Much use of the word “statute” has been made to support the idea that Christians are under compulsion to keep many of the regulations given to Moses for the Hebrew people, based on certain statements made by Mrs. E.G. White. Let’s look at how the Bible uses the words “statute” and “ordinance”.

 

  1. The word “statute” was used to describe regulations that continue today, as well as those no longer required after the cross, such as the following:

 

  1.  
    1. Tending the oil lamp in the sanctuary [Ex. 27:21].
    2. The clothing the priests were to wear [Ex. 28:43].
    3. The perpetual priesthood belonging to Aaron’s descendants [Ex. 29:9].
    4. Wave and heave offerings for new priests [Ex. 29:28].
    5. Washing of the priests prior to service in the tabernacle [Ex. 30:21].

 

Therefore, It is inappropriate to try to use the word “statute” as a way to identify eternal ordinances as opposed to temporary ones, because scripture makes no such distinctions.

 

  1. The Hebrew word translated as “statutes” is also frequently translated as “ordinance” in the OT (Old Testament), making the words “statute” and “ordinance” interchangeable in most cases. The word “statute” is used extensively in the OT, but is not found in the NT (New Testament). “Ordinance”, however, is found in the NT. Therefore, when the NT refers to OT “ordinances”, it may fairly be assumed to refer to those things described as “statutes” also. The feasts themselves were not only known under the term “statute”, but also as “ordinance”.

  1. “So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance.” Exodus 12:17

  2. “And if a stranger dwells among you, and would keep the LORD's Passover, he must do so according to the rite of the Passover and according to its ceremony; you shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger and the native of the land.” Numbers 9:14

 

  1. The Old Testament ordinances ended at the cross.

 

  1. 11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh--who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands-- 12that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.” Ephesians 2:11-16

 

  1. 11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14having wiped out the handwriting of requirements (KJV: ordinances) that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” Colossians 2:11-15

    [The “Law of Moses” may be determined to be the “handwriting of requirements that was against us” by the following statement:

    24So it was, when Moses had completed writing the words of this law in a book, when they were finished, 25that Moses commanded the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying: 26"Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there as a witness against you;…” Deuteronomy 31:24-26.
     
    Notice also the inferior position (“beside the ark of the covenant”) given to this collection of regulations hand written by Moses as compared to the Ten Commandments, which were engraved on stone by God and placed inside the Ark of the Covenant.]
     
  2. 16Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, "And to seeds," as of many, but as of one, "And to your Seed," who is Christ. 17And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. 18For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise. 19 What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.” Galatians 3:16-19

    [Note that the law was not instituted until 430 years after Abraham. This law, of course, was that given at Sinai. The Old Covenant is not the original covenant, for there was a covenant that pre-dated it… one based on the promise made to Adam and Eve and renewed to Abraham.]

 

  1.  “21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? 22For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. 23But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, 24which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar-- 25for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children-- 26but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.” Galatians 4:21-26

    [Note that the law contained in ordinances (or statutes) is not integral to salvation, for salvation was possible for many years prior to them being given from Mt. Sinai. If, therefore, they were added on to serve a particular need, God could just as easily remove them when the need disappeared.]

 

  1. “Is it any wonder Paul asked the Galatians, ‘But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage; Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.’ Galatians 4:9, 10. This bondage included the ceremonial ritual with its numerous sacrifices and feast days. The Israelites accelerated the bondage by making more intolerable burdens upon themselves, as the rabbis constantly multiplied and refined the ritual by added laws.” The Law of Galatians, N. S. Mizher, page 68.

  2.  “Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.” Hebrews 7:11-12

 

  1. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. 8Because finding fault with them, He says: "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah-- 9not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD. 10For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” “ “13In that He says, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” Hebrews 8:7-10, 13

    [The return to Old Testament statutes and ordinances is not “new light” as some have proposed, but rather “old covenant”.]

 

5.   Among the Old Testament ordinances that ended at the cross were the feast days.

  1. “16So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” Colossians 2:16-17


[The “festivals”, “new moons” and “sabbaths” are all references to the feasts.  In fact the words “food” and “drink” might even be references to offerings made during the feasts.

 “37"These are the feasts of the LORD which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire to the LORD, a burnt offering and a grain offering, a sacrifice and drink offerings, everything on its day-- 38besides the Sabbaths of the LORD, besides your gifts, besides all your vows, and besides all your freewill offerings which you give to the LORD.” Leviticus 23:37-38

 

Notice that the feasts are events “besides the Sabbaths of the Lord”, which is the seventh-day Sabbath. Since these holy days are to be kept in the same manner as the Sabbath, they were known as “sabbaths” (lower-case). However, since their occurrence was based on Jewish calendar dates, they did not necessarily fall on the weekly Sabbath in the same way that New Years Day does not fall on the same day of the week each year. This is why they are noted as being “besides”, or in addition to, the weekly Sabbath.]

 

  1. Christ was standing at the point of transition between two economies and their two great festivals. He, the spotless Lamb of God, was about to present Himself as a sin offering, that He would thus bring to an end the system of types and ceremonies that for four thousand years had pointed to His death. As He ate the Passover with His disciples, He instituted in its place the service that was to be the memorial of His great sacrifice. The national festival of the Jews was to pass away forever. The service which Christ established was to be observed by His followers in all lands and through all ages.” Desire of Ages p. 652

 

 

Conclusion

 

            During the time of Christ, some things that were previously required, such as animal sacrifices, became sin to continue in them. Some things were introduced, such as baptism and communion. And other things lost their required observance, such as circumcision and feast keeping. The statutes that commanded the feasts no longer have application to the Christian. Therefore, it is my belief that neither feast-keeping nor neglecting to keep the feasts is a sin. If the feasts deepen your relationship with Jesus, then by all means keep the feasts! My only concern is with those who would teach it as a required work.

 

 

Questions and Answers

 

This section adopts the form of a question and answer session, which I hope will be helpful in responding to questions that may have arisen while studying the information presented thus far. The questions are based on information gleaned from sources provided by a friend who believes quite strongly in the modern applicability of the feast days.

 

Question:         Aren’t the feast statutes part of the moral law, and thus an eternal obligation as much as the Ten Commandments?

 

Answer:           Here’s what E.G. White has written concerning the moral law:

 

“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 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.”

 

Mrs. White includes in her statement above some important characteristics of the moral law. First, it was “never a type or a shadow”. Colossians 2:16-17 clearly shows the feasts to be shadows. Second, it is “unalterable, infinite and eternal.” As shown previously, the feast statutes included requirements to perform animal sacrifices, something that we must not do now. That being the case, we cannot keep the feast statutes unless we alter them. And as the feast statutes were instituted at the time of the exodus they are neither infinite nor eternal.

 

The Ten Commandments were written at the same occasion as the feast statutes, to the same people, time and circumstance. Unlike the feast statutes, the Ten Commandments do not include any mention of animal sacrifices. Why not? The answer is given above; the commandments were in existence “before man’s creation, and will endure as long as God’s throne remains”. Obviously, animal sacrifices had a beginning when sin entered the world, and an ending at the cross. Because animal sacrifices were not an eternal requirement, they could not be included in a law that was eternal. They were specifically excluded in order that the Ten Commandments could be kept in all ages, as long as time should last, as written.

 

The inclusion of animal sacrifices in the feast statutes indicate that these statutes were never intended to extend beyond the cross of Christ, the “one sacrifice for sins forever.”

 

Question:         Colossians 2:16&17 merely say we are not to allow others to judge us, something that Christians are to avoid anyway. Why do you take that verse as proof that the feasts are done away with?

 

Answer:           The statement is very particular concerning the feasts, not a blanket statement concerning judging, indicating that there is something about feasts that separate it from good works, such as caring for the poor, and also from gross sin such as murder. It would appear from this verse that feast keeping had become a matter of personal choice, and was neither a sin nor a required work. In examining the various statements concerning judging others, it appears that the cautions against such judging involve actions such as fasting, vegetarianism and others that are not required practices. On the other hand, Paul does seem to indicate that we can and should judge regarding sins in the church, as evidenced by 1 Corinthians 6. If one takes the position that neglecting to keep the feasts is a sin, then the verse could be rewritten to say “So let no one judge you in thievery or in murder, or regarding adultery or lying,” and that obviously wouldn’t be right.

 

 Question:        Doesn’t Ellen White contradict your conclusions in the following statement:

“In consequence of continual transgression, the moral law was repeated in awful grandeur from Sinai. Christ gave to Moses religious precepts which were to govern everyday life. These statutes were explicitly given to guard the ten commandments. They were not shadowy types to pass away with the death of Christ. They were to be binding upon men in every age as long as time should last. These commands were enforced by the power of the moral law, and they clearly and definitely explained that law.” [Review and Herald, May 6, 1875]?

Answer:           In light of the fact that Mrs. White was not a feast-keeper, the likelihood that feasts were on her mind when she wrote this is quite slim. It would contradict her other writings, her own lifestyle, and, most importantly, scripture (more on that last point in a bit). However, there is another view of this statement that brings everything into harmony.

 

The problem some people seem to have when trying to understand this statement is in trying to apply the attributes listed to all statutes, when in fact they are characteristics of a certain type of statute. The fact that the word “statute” was used for things that remain today as well as things that ended at the cross tells us that we should not take this as a blanket statement covering all statutes. Ellen White included in her statement above five identifying characteristics of the type of statutes she was referring to:

           

  1. They were to “govern everyday life.”
  2. They were to “guard the ten commandments.”
  3. They were not “shadowy types to pass away with the death of Christ”,
  4. They were “binding upon men in every age as long as time should last” and
  5. They “clearly and definitely explained” the moral law, or Ten Commandments.

 

By examining each characteristic we can see if the feast statutes meet these requirements for inclusion in her statement. Each test, in and of itself, may not seem very conclusive, but taken together they paint a very compelling picture to me.

 

Govern Everyday Life

The feast days were not everyday activities, but rather special events. The particular requirements for a feast day did not apply to other days, but only that special day. The feast days, being annual events, hardly fit the definition of “everyday life”.

 

Guard the Ten Commandments

I was unable to find any references that clearly connected the feasts (not just a reference to statutes) to the characteristic of “guarding the Ten Commandments.”

 

Not Shadowy Types of Christ

Colossians 2:16,17: “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” These verses clearly identify the feasts, or festivals, as shadowy types of Christ. I believe Mrs. White, being well acquainted with Colossians 2, selected her words carefully to specifically exclude the feasts from her statement. In other words, the eternal statutes she was writing about were presented in contrast to the feast statutes, which were clearly a shadow of Christ. To conclude that Mrs. White was calling feasts “not shadowy types”, when scripture declares them to be so, would be to put Mrs. White in conflict with scripture. Note that the “sabbaths” referred to does not indicate the weekly Sabbath, which was not a shadow of Christ but rather a memorial of creation, but instead refers to the feast days.

 

“The Passover was followed by the seven days' feast of unleavened bread. On the second day of the feast, the first fruits of the year's harvest, a sheaf of barley, was presented before the Lord. All the ceremonies of the feast were types of the work of Christ. The deliverance of Israel from Egypt was an object lesson of redemption, which the Passover was intended to keep in memory. The slain lamb, the unleavened bread, the sheaf of first fruits, represented the Saviour.” Desire of Ages, p.77

 

“While the Saviour's death brought to an end the law of types and shadows, it did not in the least detract from the obligation of the moral law. On the contrary, the very fact that it was necessary for Christ to die in order to atone for the transgression of that law, proves it to be immutable.” Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 365

 

Binding in Every Age

This characteristic, that they be “binding upon men in every age”, also excludes the feasts on the basis that the feasts originated long after sin came into the world. They did not pre-date the Jewish nation, as evidenced by scriptures already presented above; therefore God’s people living before their introduction were not subject to them.

Not only were the feast statutes not binding upon men prior to the Hebrew nation, they also are not binding upon men since the cross of Christ for this simple reason: each feast included in its statute the requirement to offer animal sacrifices, something that you certainly would not do today as it would deny the sacrifice of Christ’s own blood. If you eliminate the required sacrifices specified in the statutes, you are no longer keeping those statutes. The unsuitability of the statutes, as written, for the modern Christian is evidence that they were never intended for the modern Christian.

 “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.’” Galatians 3:10

 

Clearly and Definitely Explaining the Moral Law

Such statements as are found in Leviticus 18 concerning sexual morality ably exemplify “clearly and definitely” explaining the moral law.  Such commands as, “You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s sister…” (verse 12) help define the boundaries of the commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery”. It, as well as other statements found in that chapter, helps define the commandment in the same manner that words Jesus spoke in Matthew 5 did: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Such commands clearly and definitely explain the law, providing a deeper understanding of the scope and spirit of the law.  Contrast these statutes with the feast statutes, which are understood to relate to the fourth commandment.  When I read Leviticus 23, which provides instructions in keeping the feasts, I find in them a collection of regulations that were not required on the weekly Sabbath day. Such things as animal sacrifices, dwelling in tents or getting rid of leavened bread do not “clearly and definitely explain” the weekly Sabbath, as they were not applicable to Sabbath observance. Instead of the feasts defining the Sabbath, it works in reverse: the feasts were to be kept as “a sabbath”, in which the people were to “do no customary work”. The Sabbath defined, in part, the feasts, but the feasts did not define the Sabbath.

 

From these tests, I believe we can reasonably conclude that the feast statutes fail to meet Mrs. White’s standards for inclusion in her statement. This conclusion is consistent with her other writings, with her personal practices and with scripture.

Question:         If Mrs. White was not including the feasts in her statement, what statutes was she writing about?

 

Answer:           These statutes would include such things as regulations regarding diet (Lev. 11), sexual morality (Lev. 18), and others. These statutes were practical examples of the Ten Commandment law, simply given in greater detail. They were not symbols of Christ, but rather guidelines for understanding the commandments.

 

Question:         Aren’t the feast day statutes practical examples of the fourth commandment? Leviticus 23 lists the Sabbath as one of the feasts. Isn’t it inconsistent to keep the Sabbath without keeping the rest of the feasts?

 

Answer:           Not necessarily. The feasts were not “practical examples” of the Sabbath commandment in the sense that the activities required on the feast days were not required on the Sabbath day, though the injunctions regarding rest on the Sabbath was a requirement on the feast days. As stated earlier, the Sabbath helped define the feasts, but the feasts did not help define the Sabbath. We keep the Sabbath because it was recorded in the Ten Commandments, not because it was listed as a feast. We keep certain other statutes given to Moses because they support and define the Ten Commandments. The feasts are neither included in the Ten Commandments, nor do they support or define the Sabbath commandment, therefore they are no longer required. What have been done away with at the cross are the animal sacrifices and the distinctive Jewish ordinances that served as types and symbols of the work of the Messiah.

 

Question:         First you say that the statutes, under the name ordinances, were done away with according to Ephesians 2 and Colossians 2, then, in an answer above, you claim that some statutes remained and are eternal. Which is it?

 

Answer:           Both, actually. According to Ephesians 2, Jesus “abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances”. The statutes that Ellen White was writing about do not stand in their own strength or get their authority from the title “statute”, but derive all their power and authority from the Ten Commandments. It is not because they were part of what we call the Law of Moses that we keep them, for the authority of that set of laws ended at the cross. Rather, these statutes are in essence the Ten Commandments explained, and not separate from the Ten at all. In Mrs. White’s words, “These commands were enforced by the power of the moral law, and they clearly and definitely explained that law.” It is their relationship to the Ten Commandments that make them eternal, not their position as Hebrew ordinances.

 

Question:         You claim that the feasts did not exist until the Exodus, but what about the use of the Hebrew word “mo’ed”, meaning “feast”, going as far back as Genesis 1:14? Doesn’t this prove the feasts existed back in at the Garden of Eden and therefore are part of the plan of salvation?

 

Answer:           The Hebrew word “mo’ed”, according to Strong’s Concordance, means an appointment, fixed time, season, festival, assembly, or congregation. It does not mean “feast” or “festival” any more than it means any of the other definitions. The correct translation depends on the context. In all the examples given in the arguments I have read, I have not been inclined to agree that “feast” is a better translation than what the Biblical translators of the most widely accepted versions have used. For example, Genesis 1:14 reads in the NKJV: “Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years;”. The word translated as “seasons” is mo’ed, which is argued to mean “feasts”. However, I find no reason to assume that “feasts” is a more appropriate choice of translation than “seasons” by the context of the verse. In light of the texts presented above showing the origin of the feasts contemporary with the deliverance from Egypt, the mo’ed argument is especially weak.

 

Question:         Paul kept the feasts, along with the Philippians and other apostles. Even Jesus kept the feasts. Shouldn’t we do likewise?

 

Answer:           In contrast to the argument above, this may be the best argument for feast keeping. However, it is not conclusive when you consider the position that feast keeping became optional at the cross.  When Paul wrote that Jesus was “born under the law” (Galatians 4:4), it means that He was born into the Jewish system. This system included the feasts. Jesus lived His life in obedience to the same regulations imposed on His nation; therefore He kept the feasts. He took advantage of these opportunities to turn the thoughts of the people from the shadow (the feast) to the substance (Himself). This is what Paul wrote concerning himself in this regard:

 

                                    “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law;” (1 Corinthians 9:19-20)

                       

Paul was conscientious after his conversion to meet people where they were at and draw them to a knowledge of the gospel. Paul and others saw valuable opportunities to witness of the ministry and identity of the Messiah through sharing the observance of the feasts, plus they found comfort in keeping the feasts as they had for many years prior. But with the benefit of the experience of the cross they now saw the feasts through new eyes, and they held new meaning for them. We shouldn’t wonder that they chose to continue keeping the feasts as a means of reaching others, but the fact that they did keep them does not prove the requirement to keep them was still in effect.

 

                       

In Closing

 

It is my hope that you prayerfully and carefully consider the points I have made in this document. I do not consider this the last word on the subject, nor even proof positive of the conclusion I have reached: that the requirement to observe the feasts ended at the cross. It is, however, my honest belief. My concern extends beyond simply addressing this doctrine, though. The manner in which this “new light” has been propagated among our churches has not been in harmony with the principals presented by Ellen White. There is much agitation concerning the “time of trouble” and the Sunday laws. There is a great deal of pride and self-sufficiency, and a spirit independent of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

 

“There is a time of trouble coming to the people of God, but we are not to keep that constantly before the people, and rein them up to have a time of trouble beforehand. There is to be a shaking among God’s people; but this is not the present truth to carry to the churches. It will be the result of refusing the truth presented.

“The ministers should not feel that they have some wonderful advanced ideas, and unless all receive these, they will be shaken out, and a people will arise to go forward and upward to the victory. Satan’s object is accomplished just as surely when men run ahead of Christ and do the work He has never entrusted to their hands, as when they remain in the Laodicean state, lukewarm, feeling rich and increased with goods, and in need of nothing. The two classes are equally stumbling blocks.” Selected Messages, p.14

           

There is in some of the members of the church pride, self-sufficiency, stubborn unbelief, and a refusing to yield their ideas, although evidence may be piled upon evidence which makes the message to the Laodicean church applicable. But that will not blot out the church that it will not exist. Let both tares and wheat grow together until the harvest. Then it is the angels that do the work of separation.

I warn the Seventh-day Adventist Church to be careful how you receive every new notion and those who claim to have great light. The character of their work seems to be to accuse and to tear down.

My brother, I would say to you, Be careful. Go not one step farther in the path you have entered upon. Walk in the light "while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you" (John 12:35).

You complain of being treated coldly in Battle Creek. Did you go with a humble spirit to those who are spiritual and say, "Will you examine the Scriptures with me? Shall we pray over this matter? I have not the light, I want it; for error will never sanctify the soul." Can you be surprised that they would not give you all that confidence you might think they should, after the experience they have passed through? Should not the words of Christ have any weight? 'Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves' (Matt 7:15). "Lo here and lo there is Christ" will be multiplied. Let the believers heed the voice of the angel who has said to the church, "Press together." In unity is your strength. Love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous.” Selected Messages, p. 69

 

It is my earnest prayer for this church that we might be one. Please consider these issues carefully and with much prayer. Thank you.