Is this your first observance of the spring holy days? Is it your 50th? Whatever the case, the big question is this: By the conclusion of this year’s feast of Unleavened Bread, will you be the same person?
Herbert W. Armstrong reminded us of the importance and meaning of this festival in his booklet Pagan Holidays—or God’s Holy Days—Which?
He called the feast “[a] memorial of deliverance from Egypt, which pictures to us deliverance from sin!” For this annual festival, beginning on the 15th of the Hebrew month Abib, God commands us to put leaven out of our homes for seven days (Exodus 12:15). Seven is the biblical number of completion—symbolizing and picturing complete putting away of sin, or, in other words, the keeping of the commandments,” he wrote.
This feast focuses on eradicating the spiritual leaven that puffs us up, conquering lawlessness and building humble, contrite, everlasting godly character. You can view it as a three-step process: remove, replace, rejoice!
Two individuals once told me, It is impossible to come out of sin. They both denied the power, Word and authority of their Creator, with whom “all things are possible” (Mark 10:27; 2 Timothy 3:5).
These baptized individuals once observed the memorial of Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread in God’s Church. Tragically, their conduct today is destroying their character and revealing a worldly form of godliness that blatantly denies God’s all-conquering power. For such we pray for a full and speedy repentance (Revelation 3:14-22).
Satan relentlessly targets our minds with remembrances of past sins. He tries to inject doubt and intimidate us back into the life of lawlessness.
As we enter into a covenant with God at baptism, we must meet two conditions: repentance and faith (Acts 2:38-39; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:10-13). We must absolutely believe the unbreakable Word of God, which promises that when we repent, God will remove our sins from as far as east is from west (Psalm 103:12, 18).
God permanently and powerfully removed the ancient Israelites from Egypt, a type of sin. He removed them from the grip of Pharaoh, a symbolic type of Satan’s grip on mankind. He delivered them through the waters of the Red Sea, depicting baptism, and destroyed the pursuers who attempted to drag them back into lawless captivity. He is the only source who can help us conquer and remove sin through the active use of His Holy Spirit in absolute faith (Matthew 4:1-11; Hebrews 11:25-29).
Our daily contact with God in prayer and His direction to us through Bible study is paramount for successful, lasting character-building. The Days of Unleavened Bread depict coming out of sin completely. That means keeping the Ten Commandments, which are a codified form of God’s law, His way, His love, His outgoing concern, His very nature.
Have you ever deleavened your home, office or vehicle only later to find remnants of leaven in an area you were sure you had cleaned out? This also happens spiritually. When we think we have completely eradicated a particular sin, we often discover hidden sins (Psalm 90:8). Upon discovery, these must be immediately overcome and removed (Psalm 51:7).
“Can you realize that every unhappiness, every evil that has come to humanity, has been the result of transgressing God’s law?” Mr. Armstrong wrote in Mystery of the Ages. “If no one ever had any other god before the true God; if all children were reared to honor, respect and obey their parents, and all parents reared their children in God’s ways; if no one ever allowed the spirit of murder to enter his heart, if there were no wars, no killing of humans by humans; if all marriages were kept happy and there were no transgressions of chastity before or after marriage; if all had so much concern for the good and welfare of others that no one would steal—and we could throw away all locks, keys and safes; if everyone told the truth—everyone’s word were good—everyone were honest; if no one ever coveted what was not rightfully his, but had so much outgoing concern for the welfare of others that he really believed it is more blessed to give than to receive—what a happy world we would have!
“In such a world, with all loving and worshiping God with all their minds, hearts and strength—with all having concern for the welfare of all others equal to concern for self—there would be no divorce—no broken homes or families, no juvenile delinquency, no crime, no jails or prisons, no police except for peaceful direction and supervision as a public service for all, no wars, no military establishments.”
How wonderful when we remove sin, we positively overcome, and we please God. These Days of Unleavened Bread be more determined to remove sin. How?
“I’ve come to see why I should hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness,” Mr. Armstrong said in a sermon on April 12, 1985, less than a year before his death. “You see, every bit of pain and suffering, every bit of stress, mental torment of any kind, every bit of everything that is unhappy and unpleasant comes from sin. If you are righteousness, that’s the absence of sin; and sin is the absence of righteousness. But if you get rid of the sin and supplant it with God’s righteousness, then you have none of those things to worry about.”
The removal of sin requires that we allow God’s Word and His law to guide our thoughts and actions. Repentance is a total turnabout of future conduct. We must replace sin with righteousness.
“I think about God; and God has no worries, no frustrations,” Mr. Armstrong said. “God has full confidence and faith, and full assurance. God is supremely happy. The only thing that could possibly make Him unhappy is some of us, and maybe we do.
“But I think He loves us so much, He’s willing to suffer that for us, if necessary; and He does. But I do hunger and thirst for His righteousness, because it means the absence of the consequences of sin. This world is trying to do away with the consequences of sin, and they can’t do it!” (ibid).
We live in a world held captive under its god, Satan the devil. He is the fallen light bringer, the author of lawless darkness (2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 12:9). Yet the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, reminds us that while in this dying world, we are to come out of its sinful ways, which are hostile to Him and His law (Romans 12:2; Revelation 18:4).
Our goal is to strive for the perfection of our Maker (Matthew 5:48). God in the flesh, tempted in all points, was so connected to His Father that He pursued this path of righteousness (Hebrew 4:15; Matthew 7:14). Following in His steps requires that we identify our transgressions and repent, replacing sin with God’s all-encompassing righteousness and character (1 John 3:4; 2:1-4; Galatians 2:20; 5:22-24).
Through our repentance and overcoming, God can live in converted, begotten members imbued with His Holy Spirit, who voluntarily submit to His will. Letting Christ come again in our flesh is the re-creation of God in us (1 John 4:2).
In Nehemiah 8:10, we are told: “[T]he joy of the Lord is your strength.” When a sin is removed from our lives, replaced with God’s character, the result yields peaceful fruits of righteousness, abundant joy, happiness and rejoicing (Hebrews 12:11).
“Those of us who have come together as the PCG should also have a very deep respect and worship for God,” Mr. Flurry wrote in Ezra and Nehemiah—Building God’s Temple. “We have been richly blessed with a deep understanding of His law. Being a Philadelphian means that we are always striving to keep God’s law more perfectly. No Laodicean group has a full understanding of God’s law anymore. And, as time passes, they are losing even more of the understanding they still have. Do we have a greater appreciation for God’s law? We all should be eager to have more understanding of God’s law!”
How do we keep the “joy of the Lord” in our lives? Just as God commanded ancient Israel to fear and obey His commands for deliverance from their captivity, so must we as spiritual Israel be swift to obey God. “Obedience preserves God’s joy in us,” Mr. Flurry answers.
Anciently, the Israelites greatly rejoiced at their deliverance from Egypt’s captivity and at the sight of the destruction of Pharaoh and his army (Exodus 14:21-31; 15:1-21). Do we, in this final Church era, likewise rejoice in the ongoing spiritual victory God works in our lives by and through His Spirit?
It is possible to come out of sin, but only with Christ living in us (Galatians 2:20).
These precious days thrust us forward toward the soon-coming return of our Savior, the removal of the author of sin, the restoration of God’s government, and the ushering in of a wonderful world of utopian physical and spiritual growth for the Family of God. Then all mankind will hear the message and reap the rewards of removing sin, replacing it with divine righteousness, and rejoicing in the supreme joy of God!
Sidebar: Herbert W. Armstrong on New Testament Holy Day Observance
Commanded in New Testament
And now we wish to show a New Testament command—more plain, more direct, than any we can find for the weekly Sabbath—to keep these annual holy days!
Observe again Numbers 28:16-17: “[I]n the fourteenth day of the first month is the passover of the Lord. And in the fifteenth day of this month is the feast: seven days shall unleavened bread be eaten.”
This feast was not the 14th, but the 15th. It was the Passover, when the lamb was killed, that was the 14th. The daylight part of the 14th was the preparation for the feast (Matthew 27:62; Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54; John 19:14). Note, in Jesus’s day the Jews celebrated their Passover one day late according to the tradition of the elders (John 18:28).
Let us get this point thoroughly established in our minds, for if this is true, as it is, then all of these days are still binding upon us, by New Testament, as well as Old Testament, authority!
Notice Matthew 26:5. The chief priests and the scribes, conspiring to kill Jesus, said: “Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.” They hastened so they could take and kill Him the day before the feast, or on the 14th Abib (Nisan).
Mark 14:2 says the same thing. Now to establish that the feast day was the day after the Passover festival, and that it was the high day sabbath—the day after Jesus was crucified, notice John 13:29: “For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag [was treasurer—Fenton translation], that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast ….” Surely this proves the feast was the following day—the 15th Abib (Nisan), as all these scriptures positively affirm. For further information on this vital subject, request our free reprint “When Was Christ Crucified and Resurrected?”
Now let us examine carefully 1 Corinthians 5:7-8. Churches have applied this to the Passover. Notice it does not say, nor apply to, Passover at all. Let us willingly, prayerfully, study to see what it does say: “… For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Thereforelet us keep the feast ….” Notice it. Because Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed, therefore let us of the NEW Testament dispensation—because Christ had died—keep, what? Notice it! Not the Passover here, which was on the 14th Abib (Nisan)—but let us keep the feast—which was the 15th! The high-day sabbath of John 19:31! The annual holy day. And, in a larger sense, the feast included all seven of the Days of Unleavened Bread, including the second holy day, or sabbath, on the 21st Abib (Nisan)! We cannot escape this, if we are yielded to the Lord and the Word of God! There it is, in plain language, in the New Testament! Because Christ was crucified, therefore let us keep the feast! The 14th was the Passover, but in the 15th day of this month is the feast! Let us no longer apply that to the Passover, for it says “feast.”
Days of Unleavened Bread Kept by Paul and the New Testament Church
It is faithfully recorded in the New Testament that the Church, during the period its history covers, was keeping those days!
In Acts 20:6: “[W]e sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread ….” Paul and companions plainly had observed the Days of Unleavened Bread at Philippi. The Holy Spirit could never have inspired such words otherwise.
Notice also Acts 12:3: “Then were the days of unleavened bread.” Why this, if those days had, in God’s sight, ceased to exist?
Notice, it is not anyone ignorant of what was abolished making this statement. It is Almighty God saying it through inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This was years after the crucifixion. The Days of Unleavened Bread still existed, or the Holy Spirit could not have inspired “Then were the days of unleavened bread.”
—From Pagan Holidays—or God’s Holy Days—Which?