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UCG-A Bible Insights Thursday, July 11 2024

Many paths to God?

Many believe there are many paths to God, and that He is not exclusive. This view seems to be as a result of man's quest for tolerance and brotherhood, after millennia of hatred, bigotry, pogroms, forced conversions and inquisitions.

God certainly doesn't support or teach hatred and bigotry, but is it possible the "many-paths-to-God" approach is not what God wants? In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus talks about the narrow gate that only a few find, while verses 15-16 warn about false prophets, deceiving people with false religious beliefs and practices.

Every year millions celebrate religious holidays not found in the Bible. In order to follow Christ, shouldn't we consider which religious days He observed? These would include the weekly Sabbath day, and a series of annual festivals, commanded by God, and documented in the Bible. Most people claiming to follow Christ's example know little or nothing about the Passover and these biblically commanded festivals, or understand why Jesus considered them important.

Jesus expects those who would follow His example to practice and teach the clear instructions from God in the Old Testament Scriptures, which are fully compliant with Christ’s example and teachings recorded in the New Testament. There is no conflict between the two. The Hebrew Scriptures, or Old Testament, made up the only "Bible" available to Jesus and the early Church. The "Word of God" and the Old Testament Scriptures were one and the same. In John 10:35 Jesus states: "...Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35) and in Luke 16:17: "...it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail."

A study of the "feasts of the Lord" listed in Leviticus 23, and declared to be holy convocations (verse 2), gives us insight into how God plans to offer salvation to people from all backgrounds. They are very relevant for Christians today and are still commanded holy convocations.

The first festival is the Passover, which Paul explained represented Jesus Christ's sacrifice: "For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us" (1 Corinthians 5:7). His sacrifice made it possible for sinful man to be forgiven and enter a relationship with God, making salvation possible. After instituting the important symbols of bread and wine Jesus said: "For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you ...blessed are you if you do them" (John 13:15-17), clearly instructing them to continue observing the Passover service in exactly the same manner as He had done. Years later non-Jewish Christians in the Greek city of Corinth were still following the example Jesus Christ set, as the Apostle Paul tells us (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

The second festival, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, also symbolizes the process of conversion for those who are called and respond to Christ's sacrifice by repenting and ridding their lives of sin. Sin is represented in the New Testament as leaven, which Paul discusses in 1 Corinthians 5:6-7, and he exhorts us in verse 8: "Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."

The next annual Holy Day is Pentecost, which is the day God poured out His Holy Spirit, starting the New Testament Church (Acts 2). The Holy Spirit makes possible the miracle of writing God's laws on the minds and hearts of those who accept Christ's sacrifice, repent and are baptized (Hebrews 8:10).

According to Jewish tradition, the Israelites also received the Ten Commandments on the day of Pentecost. It was then that God made a covenant with them and they became the "congregation of God." A far more important relationship would be established on a later Day of Pentecost—through the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4). Since Paul tells us, "If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His" (Romans 8:9), there can be no doubt that this festival sets an important milestone for all Christians, and Paul observed it as such (Acts 20:16; 1 Corinthians 16:8).

These first three festivals, Passover, the seven days of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost symbolize the way being opened for salvation and the New Testament Church age beginning. The next four festivals summarize the prophesied events that will make it possible for all to have a chance for salvation.

The Feast of Trumpets is an annual reminder of the promise that Christ will return to establish God's Kingdom at the sound of the seventh trumpet spoken of by the Apostles John and Paul (Revelation 11:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-19; 1 Corinthians 15:52). The seven trumpet blasts announce the seven major events leading up to and including Christ's return (Revelation 8-11). At that time, "He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect ..." (Matthew 24:31 and1 Corinthians 15:52).

The Day of Atonement symbolizes the prophesied events related to the putting away of the instigator of sin, Satan, who has played a major role in separating man from God (Revelation 20:1-3). This Holy Day also again reminds us of the necessity of Christ's sacrifice for humans to be at one with God.

The prophecy of Revelation 20 continues with the peaceful 1,000-year millennial rule of Christ and the saints (Revelation 20:4) portrayed by the Feast of Tabernacles. All those living during this time will have the opportunity to learn God’s ways and war will be a thing of the past (Zechariah 14:16; Isaiah 2:1-4). When Christ returns, not only will He keep the Passover, along with His resurrected apostles, but He also will require all nations to join Him in keeping the Feast of Tabernacles (Zechariah 14:16).

But what about all who have ever lived in the past who haven't had the opportunity for salvation? The last annual Holy Day, the Eighth Day or Last Great Day, is an annual reminder of God's incredible love. The prophetic summary of Revelation 20 tells us: "the rest of the dead” will be resurrected to life again after the 1,000 year Millennium (verses 5, and 11-12).They will have their chance to repent, accept Christ's sacrifice and receive His Holy Spirit. All who have ever lived will have the chance to experience the truth, peace and fulfillment of following God's way. This resurrection and period of judgment is also talked about in Ezekiel 37, where God says "I will put My Spirit in you" (verse 14).

God's festivals, which are to be annually observed, are God-given annual reminders of Christ's role in securing redemption and salvation for all humanity.