In giving His laws to Moses, God said: “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,” (Leviticus 23:34).
This was not just an Old Testament commandment, it also applies to Christians today.
Jesus Christ, set the example by observing this feast: “But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, ‘Where is He?’ . . . Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught” (John 7:10-11,14). It was His lifelong practice to keep God’s festivals, even when His life was threatened, and the early Church continued to follow His example and also celebrated these feasts.
In order to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, God told the Israelites to do something that might seem strange. They were to observe the Feast with “tabernacles” or “booths,” which is a temporary sheltering structure or similar dwelling. Christians today observe the Feast by leaving home and temporarily living in other accommodation in order to assemble together to worship God and be taught. These temporary dwellings remind us that we are strangers and pilgrims on this earth, and that this world isn’t our real home. Our goal is eternal life in God’s Kingdom, and we are exhorted to come out of the present world.
For the Israelites, the Feast of Tabernacles was a celebration of the large late summer and autumn harvest in the land of Israel, and behind the celebration of the harvest is an incredible spiritual lesson that foreshadows a large spiritual harvest. The Feast of Tabernacles symbolizes the time when Jesus returns to rule the world for 1,000 years, during a time of unparalleled peace and harmony. People will say: “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in his paths . . . They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:3-4).
God gives us physical lessons to teach us spiritual truth and this is why ‘the feasts of the Lord’ (Leviticus 23:2) are for all mankind. God's plan for mankind involves restoration and the Feast of Tabernacles symbolizes that restoration process, which will start with the return of Jesus Christ, pictured by the Feast of Trumpets, and the banishment of Satan, depicted by the Day of Atonement. Once these events have taken place the foundation is in place for the restoration of the creation to peace and harmony with God.
With time, he also came to understand the days observed by most of Christianity are not commanded in the Bible, and Scripture backed up his realisation that associating the name of Jesus with these days did not make them more acceptable: "... in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:9).
While in high school, he also discovered that in the King James Version of the Bible the word translated as "Easter" in Acts 12:4 was an erroneous translation of the Greek word ‘pascha’, a word clearly meaning the Passover (described in Leviticus 23:5). It was not until the second century, long after the New Testament was written, that people began to replace the Passover observance with Easter.
Jesus and His family observed the Holy Days of the Bible, travelling to Jerusalem, when He was twelve years old, to observe the Passover (Luke 2:41, 42). John 7 also shows Christ keeping the Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day (described in Leviticus 23:33-36) in spite of the threat of bodily harm. Jesus kept all of the annual festivals, not only because He was a devout Jew, but because God commanded them and He was setting an example for Christians today (Matthew 28:20).
These Holy Days were also observed following Christ's ascension. The disciples were gathered together to observe the feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was sent (Acts 2:1), because Pentecost was still a "holy convocation," a commanded assembly (Leviticus 23: 15- 16, 21).
Gentile Christians also observed the biblical Holy Days. More than 20 years after Christ’s crucifixion, about the year A.D. 55, the Apostle Paul gave important instruction to the Church in the gentile city of Corinth, where most church members were gentile. A man was involved in an immoral relationship, and Paul instructed them to expel him from the church:"...Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump...For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with ...the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).
The Corinthians had put out leaven to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, but had not applied the spiritual lesson. Paul’s intent, by instructing them to "keep the feast," was not to spiritualize away the Days of Unleavened Bread, but to magnify them. The New Testament builds on the foundation of the Old by emphasizing the spiritual intent of the Holy Days.
Colossians 2:16, 17 is perhaps the most oft-quoted New Testament Scripture used to discredit the Holy Days: "So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ."
Paul was not saying not to keep the Holy Days, he was addressing their proper observance. The Colossians had been introducing ascetic practices on the Holy Days, as they were being influenced to follow the commandments and doctrines of men (verses 18-23). If anything, these verses corroborate the practice of God's true Church in the first century was to observe these days,
Another misunderstood text is Galatians 4:8-10. Verses 8 and 9 refer to the practices of the Galatians before they knew the true God, and after learning the truth, they were beginning to return to these ‘weak and beggarly elements’. To say God's laws are weak and beggarly is blasphemous. These "days and months and seasons [times] and years" were pagan practices, possibly similar to astrology today.
When a person looks into the commands and examples in the Bible to determine which religious festivals to observe, there is only one choice to be found: the annual festivals and Holy Days of God. If we are to build on the foundation of the apostles and prophets and follow the example of Jesus Christ, we will faithfully observe these days, and come to learn more about God's plan of salvation for humanity.