“The so-called Christian churches today do not understand or teach what sin is—they do not teach that sin must be put away,” Herbert W. Armstrong boldly stated in his pivotal booklet Pagan Holidays—or God’s Holy Days—Which? During his 50-plus-year ministry, he never wavered on this belief. Yet no other Christian denomination agreed with him. In fact, many vehemently opposed him on the sin issue.
How could Mr. Armstrong stand firm—alone—on such teaching? He believed what he read in the Bible—both the Old and New Testament. He recognized that the vast majority of “so-called Christians”—including ministers—who bought, read, studied and carried Bibles did not believe or accept what they read. How did he know this? From what they taught about sin and the law of God!
Modern Christianity has declared that the law (and essentially sin) is done away. So it was obvious to Mr. Armstrong that people who made such claims failed to come to understand that a true Christian is expected “to live a life of overcoming sin, enduring unto the end, and that the overcomers shall reign with Christ, being kings and priests, in His Kingdom” (ibid).
Those who faithfully follow the teachings of Mr. Armstrong know well that he was challenged by his wife to prove from the Bible that the true Christian day for worship was Sunday, not Saturday. Accepting her challenge, Mr. Armstrong assured his wife that all the Christian churches could not have gotten this point of doctrine wrong. When he honestly looked into the Bible, however, he discovered that all the churches were wrong—not only about the correct Sabbath day, but also about the biblical command to keep the annual holy days.
Through long hours of study and years of experience, Mr. Armstrong came to understand that God had a great purpose for establishing the annual holy days. These annual sabbaths are an integral part of the Fourth Commandment, which is to be obeyed! The weekly Sabbath and seven annual holy days are of incredible spiritual benefit to every man, woman and child and will be kept worldwide at Jesus Christ’s return.
Why a Weekly Sabbath and Annual Sabbaths
Mr. Armstrong thoroughly explained God’s purpose for establishing the weekly sabbath and the annual holy days in this eye-opening booklet on God’s holy days. “And creation is the proof of the existence of God. Creation identifies God. The Sabbath is a weekly memorial of creation. A weekly reminder of God’s power to create” (ibid). Millions today doubt God’s existence because they have accepted the false theory of evolution, which seeks to explain a creation without a creator. Knowledge of the Sabbath and correct Sabbath-keeping would have prevented that theory from blinding the minds of millions.
“Now in like manner, when God Gave His Church seven annual sabbaths, God, in His wisdom, had a great purpose,” he continued. “These days, too, were given to keep God’s children in the true memory and worship of God by keeping us constantly in the understanding of God’s great plan of redemption. For these annual days picture the different epochs in the plan of spiritual creation—mark the dispensations, and picture their meaning.”
Leviticus 23:2 reveals that the weekly Sabbath and the annual sabbaths are “the feasts of the Lord.” They are God’s festival seasons and are established forever, which means they must be kept forever! Why? “The whole story of spiritual regeneration [re-creation] was, in these feast days, to be reenacted year after year continually. They have vitally important symbolism and meaning,” proclaimed Mr. Armstrong.
Embedded within these festivals is the incredible knowledge that God is reproducing Himself in man. Modern Christianity has no understanding of what God desires for all mankind. “They do not understand that Christ is coming again, and those who preach the Second Coming fail to understand its meaning and purpose,” he wrote. “They teach the pagan doctrine of the immortality of the soul, going immediately to heaven or hell at death—and they teach that death is only life.” God’s sabbaths teach something far more glorious for mankind’s future.
God wants to cement His plan into our minds through the keeping of His holy days. God’s weekly Sabbath and annual sabbaths require our active participation to keep us in the knowledge of the true purpose of God! The spring festival season, which outlines the first steps in God’s plan, is at the door. You and I will never understand the end goal of God’s plan if we don’t have the right start. Are you prepared to be an active participant?
God established two spring festivals—Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread—to give us a powerful start to all His holy days. The Passover is a one-day event, but not an annual sabbath. It is conducted on the night portion of the 14th of Abib on the Hebrew calendar and corresponds with the evening of March 26 of this year on the Roman calendar. The Days of Unleavened Bread follows immediately on Abib 15, or March 28 (beginning the evening of the 27th), and lasts for seven days with the annual sabbath on the first day. A second annual sabbath concludes the festival on the seventh day, or April 3. The Passover and the annual sabbaths carry unique instructions that combine to highlight a unified overall instruction. Because of this unity in purpose, anciently, these two festivals were often referred to as “Passover.” So in a sense, we are given eight days for renewed study of God’s plan and purpose for man, spiritual worship, reflection and celebration during the spring festival season. All of this education is focused around the absolute need to remove sin from our lives and to see the evil destructive nature of sin. How bountiful in giving is our God!
Prepare for the Passover
“God commands that true Christians memorialize the sacrifice of Jesus Christ every year. [His tremendous sacrifice paid the price for all our sins.] He gives very specific instructions on how baptized members are to keep this annual ceremony,” writes Gerald Flurry in How to Be an Overcomer. In preparation for taking part in the Passover ceremony, we should restudy Jesus Christ’s institution of the New Testament Passover service in Matthew 26:17-30 and John 13:1-17. It is a ceremony not to be taken lightly. In addition, both Mr. Armstrong’s and Mr. Flurry’s booklets should be high on our spring holy day study list in preparation for Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. If you do not have these booklets, they will be sent to you at no charge, upon request.
The Apostle Paul provided detailed instructions for proper Passover observance in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. He emphasizes our need to examine ourselves thoroughly before taking the symbols of Christ’s broken body and spilled blood. “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body” (verses 26-29). Verse 23 shows that Paul received this instruction directly from Jesus Christ; so Christ is commanding us to have the proper spiritual focus entering this sacred ceremony.
“God instituted the Passover as a memorial to that sacrifice of Christ, which paid for our sins and reconciled us to the Father. When we take the Passover, all of our attention should be on the Lamb of God who was sacrificed for us. We must focus on the Lamb who paid the penalty for our sins,” continues Mr. Flurry. Certainly, the Passover is a sober festival, yet it is an evening of comfort and peace knowing that Jesus Christ willingly paid the penalty of our sins so we can be reconciled to God our Father and be “born again” into the Family of God at His return.
Heartily Keep the Days of Unleavened Bread
The Days of Unleavened Bread begin in the most unique way. Remember this is a seven-day festival with annual sabbaths on the first and last days (Leviticus 23:6-8). The first day’s celebration represents both an historic event and a vital spiritual requirement for a true Christian’s spiritual success. The ancient Israelites were set free from Egyptian slavery on Abib 15. Exactly 24 hours after slaying the Passover lambs, the entire nation walked out of Egypt at night. This event holds great spiritual significance for true Christians. Mr. Armstrong taught that Egypt is a type of sin and that Pharaoh is a type of Satan. After God poured out the 10th plague (the death of the firstborn of man and beast) on Egypt, the Israelites, who faithfully sacrificed the Passover lamb, were freed from captivity to sin and Satan.
The same holds true for Christians today. Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, the first step in God’s master plan of salvation, frees us from Satan and captivity to sin. The Israelites left Egypt with great joy and celebration. So exactly 24 hours after the Christian Passover service, God commands us to celebrate our deliverance from Satan and sin. Remember that the first day of this feast begins at sunset. During the night portion, God’s people celebrate their coming out of sin with a festive dinner. “It is a night to be much observed unto the Lord for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of the Lord to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations,” records Moses in Exodus 12:42.
During a Night to Be Much Observed dinner, God’s people gather in small groups to eat a fine meal and discuss how God has drawn them to Christ and delivered them from the deceit of Satan and the ravages of sin. It truly is a joyous occasion. But this is only the beginning of the Days of Unleavened Bread.
Quitting Sin Completely
During the day portion of the first annual sabbath, God’s people gather for services to hear messages about the spiritual meaning behind the Days of Unleavened Bread. During this seven-day festival, God commands His people to put leavening out of all their houses and abstain from eating leavened products (Exodus 12:15-17). Unusual? Not really, once you understand the deep spiritual symbolism.
The Bible reveals that leaven is a type of sin (1 Corinthians 5:6-8; Matthew 16:6, 11-12). By eating unleavened bread, we demonstrate our desire to overcome sin in our lives. Each year we need to be reminded of the deceitfulness of sin and our need to root sin out of our lives.
Jesus Christ described the false doctrines of the Pharisees and Sadducees as leaven (Matthew 16:6-12). Modern Christianity is plagued with false doctrine—or spiritual leaven. True Christians must constantly remain on guard against living a spiritually leavened life. “The seven days of the feast of Unleavened Bread picture the keeping of the commandments, which is another way of saying the putting away of sin,” wrote Mr. Armstrong (0p cit). Remember, modern Christianity believes that the law has been done away.
Read the Apostle Paul’s simple, but direct, teaching on our need to keep the feast of Unleavened Bread in 1 Corinthians 5:1-8. Eating unleavened bread for seven days brings home this lesson for us. Be sure to pray, study and meditate on the meaning of the spring holy days. Jesus Christ’s sacrifice saves us from the death penalty and reconciles us to God, but we must continue to put sin out of our lives every day of our life.
The last day of Unleavened Bread also pictures an historic event and provides a summary lesson for us. It is like a capstone for the entire festival. The history of this day is found in Exodus 14. After Pharaoh recovered from the initial impact of the death of his firstborn, he pursued the Israelites with a great army. He intended to recapture them and return them to slavery. Camped at the Red Sea, the Israelites felt trapped and hopeless, yet God delivered them by opening a path through the sea to safety. God then destroyed Pharaoh and his entire army by drowning them in the same sea. It was a great victory for Israel.
The vital lesson true Christians must take away from keeping the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread is that, because of Christ’s supreme sacrifice, we must completely put sin out of our lives. To do so, we need a driving passion to overcome sin in our lives. However, we cannot maintain the necessary passion on our own power. We need Jesus Christ to come to our aid as He did with the ancient Israelites. Christ will equip us with the passion we need.
Study Exodus 13:18. When God led Israel out of Egypt, this verse states that Israel left Egypt “harnessed.” The Hebrew word means the people were brave, eager, prepared, ready to fight. In other words, God equipped them for the rough road ahead. We must allow God to equip us for what’s ahead by our study of what these special days teach us and instruct us to do. Doing so can create a passion. When we keep these spring holy days with the right focus, we will be equipped with the passion to overcome sin.