One of the most distinguishing and defining differences between most Christian organizations and the Church of the Eternal God and its international affiliates is the observance of the biblical Sabbath and the biblical annual Holy Days. In our Statement of Beliefs, we state the following, under “Observation of God’s Commanded Holy Days”:
“We believe that we are to observe certain weekly and annual Holy Days, during which time we are to attend Church services and to refrain from secular labor, including school, college or university attendance, and which time we are to dedicate and devote to worship, spiritual study, prayer, fellowship with Church members, and physical rest.”
This shows that the biblical Holy Days are sanctified by God. God set those days aside for a holy purpose; it is not for us to determine when certain times are holy, since only God can and does decide this. God wants us to remember those days to keep them holy. And so, we continue in our Statement of Beliefs to list those Holy Days, introducing them as follows: “These weekly and annual Holy Days are…”
We begin with the weekly Sabbath, showing that we observe the “seventh-day weekly Sabbath from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. The day symbolizes God’s resting on the seventh day, after having recreated the surface of the earth in six days, and the forthcoming Millennium which is also referred to as a Sabbath lasting for 1,000 years (Leviticus 23:3; Exodus 20:8-11, Hebrews 4:3-11).”
It is important to realize that the weekly Sabbath is a Holy Day, which lasts from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. God reckons each day beginning at sunset and continuing through until the following sunset. We know from the Jewish people when to keep the Sabbath. It is the Jews to whom God committed His revelations or His “oracles,” as Paul clearly explains in Romans 3:1–2. These “oracles of God” included the Old Testament Scriptures, as well as the knowledge of the week and of the Sacred Calendar. (We accept the Sacred Calendar, as used by the Jewish community, and reject the idea of having to create our own calendar. Many have tried to do so without godly authority, and hopeless confusion has been the result.) The Jews preserved the knowledge of which day the seventh day of the week is. Without an understanding of when a week begins and ends, we would not have been able to tell, from the Bible alone, which day the seventh day of the week actually is. Today, the Jews keep the Sabbath on Saturday, beginning Friday evening, at sunset. Nobody questions today that the Sabbath, as preserved by the Jews, is the seventh or last day of the week. All understand [or should understand] that Sunday is the first day of the week.
Some few organizations may keep the weekly Sabbath, but they do not keep [any or most of] the annual Holy Days and Festivals (For the correct dates of the annual Feast days, please note our Holy Day calendar).
We continue in our Statement of Beliefs with a reference to the Passover, stating that we observe the “Passover once a year in the evening by engaging in a footwashing service as an example of humility in accordance with Christ’s example, and partaking of the unleavened bread and wine, symbolizing physical and spiritual healing and forgiveness of sin. The entire service symbolizes a remembrance of Christ’s death (Leviticus 23:5, Luke 22:14-20; John 13:1-5; 1 Corinthians 11:20-29).”
After the 24-hour Passover day had begun at sunset, Jesus changed the symbol of the Passover lamb to the symbol of footwashing, bread and wine. Subsequently, He was betrayed and arrested that same night, and He was beaten and killed during the daylight portion of the Passover day. He was laid in the grave just before sunset, at the end of the Passover day. The entire 24-hour day of the Passover is not a Holy Day per se, in that we are not required to keep the entire Passover day holy, but the service at the beginning of the Passover evening is holy time.
The Passover is only to be observed by properly baptized persons (those who are spiritually circumcised, Colossians 2:11-14), who have received the Holy Spirit; otherwise, they would partake of it in an unworthy manner (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). [This is the ONLY service of the Church which is for baptized Church members only. Otherwise, we state in our Policy Statement that “we welcome guests to our Church services, as long as they are not contentious and worship with us in peace and harmony and in accordance with our doctrines and practices.”] The Passover is observed once a year as a memorial; the concept of keeping it more often throughout the year, perhaps calling it “communion” or the “Lord’s Supper,” is not biblical and constitutes partaking of the “Passover” in an unworthy manner. Also, the Passover is to be observed with UNLEAVENED bread and wine—not grape juice. Finally, the Passover is to be kept at the beginning of the 14th of Nisan, NOT at the end of the 14th of Nisan or the beginning of the 15th of Nisan, and it is NOT to be kept as a meal.
We continue to explain in our Statement of Beliefs that we observe the “Days of Unleavened Bread once a year by not partaking of any food prepared with leaven for a period of seven days following the Passover [It is not commanded to abstain from leavened products during the Passover day; however, as mentioned above, the piece of bread which will be partaken of during the Passover service must be unleavened, as it symbolizes the sinless body of Christ]. The partaking of the unleavened bread during the Days of Unleavened Bread symbolizes our commitment to live a sinless life (Leviticus 23:6-8; Acts 20:6; 1 Corinthians 5:7-8).”
While we observe the entire seven days by avoiding leavened products, only the first and the last day of this seven-day period are annual Holy Days. Numerous Scriptures tell us to remove leavened bread from our houses before the Days of Unleavened Bread begin, and not to eat leavened bread during these seven days. At the same time, we are told to eat unleavened bread during these days. Biblical passages containing this command can be found in Exodus 12:15-20; 13:7; 23:15; 34:18; Leviticus 23:6; Numbers 28:17; and Deuteronomy 16:3, 8. As a general rule, we are to eat unleavened bread every day during the Days of Unleavened Bread (barring emergencies or other extraordinary circumstances), as we are to replace sin (symbolized by leaven) with righteousness (symbolized by unleavened bread). Compare 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; Luke 12:1; Matthew 16:12. Even those who normally don’t eat bread should still eat a little bit of unleavened bread every day during the Days of Unleavened Bread (in addition to their normal food which must not contain leavened products of any kind), to remind them of the symbolism conveyed during those seven days.
The Church of God has never taught that beverages [such as beer or wine] or items not meant or fit for human consumption [such as dog food, tooth paste, fire extinguishers, cleaning material, medication] are to be removed. In addition, though, the Church of God has consistently preached and taught that certain “leavening agents,” which the Jews don’t remove, SHOULD BE removed. These leavening agents include baking soda and baking powder, but not “brewer’s yeast,” “yeast extracts,” or “cream of tartar.” Whether or not baking soda or baking powder are active agents, they would clearly be used as a substitute for leavening to puff up any flour or meal product, thereby violating the spirit of God’s commands.
We have prepared an extensive list of products which should be removed and avoided during the Days of Unleavened Bread.
The Church also keeps the Night to Be Much Observed at the beginning of the 15th day of the first month (after sundown on the First Day of Unleavened Bread) when members gather together for an evening meal. On that occasion, they reflect on how the events of the exodus of ancient Israel, when they came out of physical slavery in Egypt, foreshadowed their spiritual exodus from their slavery of sin (Exodus 12:42; Numbers 33:3).
Today’s Jewish community is totally confused about the distinction between the Passover night and the Night to Be Much Observed. In fact, they keep the PASSOVER at the END of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th day, TOGETHER WITH the Night to Be Much Observed, as if the two events were one and the same. But these are two separate events that are to be observed at two separate times. Scripture commands that the Passover is to be observed at the BEGINNING of the 14th day, while the Night to Be Much Observed is to be kept at the beginning of the 15th day—one entire day LATER! God said that at the END of the 14th day (or the beginning of the 15th day) unleavened bread is to be eaten until the END of the 21st day—that is, for seven days (Exodus 12:18).
We continue to explain in our Statement of Beliefs that as the next annual Holy Day, we observe the “Feast of Pentecost once a year. This day symbolizes the coming of God’s Holy Spirit for the purpose of converting those called by God at this time (Leviticus 23:15-16, 21; Acts 2:1-4; 20:16; 1 Corinthians 16:8).”
The Church of God understands and teaches that only very few are called today to salvation, which fact is pictured by the Feast of Pentecost or the Feast of the Firstfruits (Exodus 23:16; compare James 1:18; Romans 8:23; Revelation 14:4). While there is much confusion in the Christian and Jewish world regarding the correct date of Pentecost, the Church of God determines it by counting 50 days from the Sunday [after the weekly Sabbath], on which the wave sheaf was offered and which falls within the annual Holy Days of Unleavened Bread, as instructed in the Bible (Leviticus 23:11). The Feast of Pentecost also tells us that today, both “Jews and Gentiles” are called; that is, “in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him’” (Acts 10:35; compare Acts 10:45; 11:18).
The Feast of Pentecost also teaches us that we are not yet born again, when we receive the Holy Spirit at the time of our proper baptism; but that we are Spirit-begotten children of God. Our Spirit birth will occur later.
We proceed to state in our Statement of Beliefs that we observe as the next Holy Day the “Feast of Trumpets once a year. This day symbolizes the soon coming return of Jesus Christ to this earth (Leviticus 23:24-25; 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16), and our resurrection or change to immortality, to be born again into the Kingdom or Family of God (1 Corinthians 15:50-54, 42-49; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; John 3: 3, 5-8).”
The Feast of Trumpets must be seen in connection with the Feast of Pentecost, as Pentecost reminds us that only very few are chosen at this time to receive the gift of God’s Holy Spirit and to prepare for the time when God will replace Satan and restore His government on and over all the earth (Revelation 5:10). These few are being taught and trained by God so that they can later teach mankind to reject the rule of Satan and to submit to God’s authority. That time of massive re-education will begin when Jesus Christ returns—in great power and great glory—as the KING of kings and the LORD of lords. He is coming back once (not twice; a secret rapture is nowhere taught in Scripture) to restore ALL THINGS on this earth. God wants us to keep the annual Holy Day of the Feast of Trumpets as a reminder of the monumental future event of Christ’s return. Those in Christ still alive when He returns will be changed to immortality, and those who have died in Christ, will be resurrected from the dead to eternal life. This will be the time when we will be born again; when we will be born of the Spirit; when we will BE Spirit (John 3:6).
Following the Feast of Trumpets is the Day of Atonement which we observe, as we state in our Statement of Beliefs, “once a year by refraining from partaking of any and all solid food or liquid for a period of 24 hours. This day symbolizes those called by God during this life, having received at-one-ment with God; those who can receive at-one-ment with God after Christ’s return; and the transfer of sin to Satan as the one who is ultimately responsible for all sin (Leviticus 16:1-34; Leviticus 23:27-32; Acts 27:9).”
This is not God’s world, but it is Satan the Devil’s world. In order to bring perfect peace and happiness to this earth, Satan—the arch-enemy of God and man—will have to be removed from his power over this earth (compare Revelation 2:13). Only then can man truly become “at one” with God. God created the annual Holy Day of Atonement to foreshadow the event of Satan’s removal in the near future (Romans 16:20). In order to impress on us the seriousness of this event, we are commanded to fast for 24 hours (people with serious health concerns should consult a doctor before fasting; and young children should not be compelled to fast.)
Following the Day of Atonement, we state in our Statement of Beliefs that we observe the “Feast of Tabernacles once a year, for seven consecutive days, by attending one of the Church’s designated sites around the world. This period symbolizes the reign of Christ for 1,000 years, together with His saints made immortal, during which time Satan will be bound and the entire world will be living under the government of God (Leviticus 23:33-35; Daniel 7:27; John 7:2-8, 10-14; Revelation 20:4).”
After Satan has been removed, Christ and His saints will begin the awesome task of restoring all things on earth. Those who qualify will rule with Christ on this earth (not from heaven over this earth) for 1,000 years (the “Millennium”) (Revelation 20:4), governing those human beings who survived the incredible time of suffering just prior to Christ’s return, as well as those who will be born during the Millennium. Under Christ’s leadership—and along with Him—the saints will restore what had been taken away through Satan’s rebellion and what Adam and Eve failed to restore (see Daniel 7:27). We celebrate this unique and unparalleled time in the entire history of mankind every year for seven days when we observe the Feast of Tabernacles (see John 7:2–14).
The first day of that seven-day Festival is to be observed as an annual Holy Day. The entire time will be observed in “temporary housings” such as hotels or motels, and barring extraordinary circumstances (such as poor health), members of the Church should be assembling at and attending one of the designated Feast sites of the Church for the entire time. The idea of just building a “booth” in which to eat a meal, while living in our homes, is not biblical.
In order to be able to finance staying in hotels and eating in restaurants for the entire time of the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day (discussed below), God has instituted the concept of a SECOND tithe (or a second ten percent of one’s earnings or other income). This is an additional tithe of one’s “increase” (Deuteronomy 14:22-26). Soncino confirms that Deuteronomy 14:23 discusses the “second tithe.” They state, “This refers to the second tithe, because the first tithe was to be given to the Levites who were allowed to eat it anywhere (cf. Num. xviii. 26, 31).” The Ryrie Study Bible has a similar comment pertaining to Deuteronomy 14:22-27, confirming the existence of a “second tithe.” So does “The New Bible Commentary: Revised,” copyright 1970, on page 220: “This is the so-called ‘second tithe,’ as contrasted with that tithe of the produce given to maintain the Levites (see Nu. 18:26-28).”
The individual who wants to obey God by keeping the Feast of Tabernacles (FOT) in the correct way saves the second tithe each year for his or her use in observing God’s annual Holy Days – mainly the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day, as members are commanded to travel for the FOT to one of God’s designated feast sites. This tithe is to be saved for use by the individual. Only “excess second tithe” — the portion of the second tithe exceeding appropriate individual use — should be sent to the Church. The “excess second tithe” can be used by the Church for members who were unable to save sufficient second tithe for the Holy Days, and for necessary Church-related Feast expenses (such as hall rentals). As mentioned, the Second Tithe is mainly for the observance of the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day, but it can also be used, in addition, for the other Holy Days (such as costs for travel and restaurants), as long as sufficient funds remain for the FOT.
We explain in our Statement of Beliefs that we also keep one more Holy Day, the “Last Great Day which immediately follows the Feast of Tabernacles, once a year. This day symbolizes a 100-year period called the ‘Great White Throne Judgment,’ during which all persons who have ever lived and who were never called by God for salvation during this life, will have their first opportunity to accept Christ as their Savior (Leviticus 23:36; John 7:37; Revelation 20:11-12). At the end of that period, there will be a judgment during which all people who have ever lived and who have refused to accept Christ as their Savior, will be finally condemned to eternal death and destroyed in Gehenna fire (Revelation 20:13-15).”
Church members keep the entire time of the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day in temporary housing (such as hotels) at one of the designated feast sites.
The final annual Holy Day of the Last Great Day, which immediately follows the Feast of Tabernacles, symbolizes a period of—most likely—100 years (Isaiah 65:20), called the “Great White Throne Judgment” (Revelation 20:11–12). This is that time during which all persons who had not been called before will be resurrected to physical life and will then be given their first real opportunity to accept or to reject God’s calling (John 7:37).
The fact that the Bible reveals more than just one resurrection is neither understood nor believed by many professing Christians, let alone the rest of the world, but Revelation 20:4-6, 11-12 clearly describe the SECOND resurrection—the resurrection of those who will live again AFTER the thousand years are finished.
Most of the dead, who were not in the first resurrection, will be in the second resurrection—a resurrection to physical life. They will be taught God’s way of life and they will then be judged according to their works. Jesus Christ will be their Judge (Acts 17:30–31). It does not say that they are judged based on the works that they did in their prior life, although this might be included.
Sadly, though, there are those who have had their chance, but have rejected it. At one time, they knew and understood perfectly well that they had to submit to Christ, but they permanently refused to do so. In most cases, they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit, but they had subsequently lost it. They became bitter, hateful, resentful and malicious. They made the unchangeable decision NEVER to repent again! If a person has reached the stage that he can no longer repent, because he has made a firm decision NOT to repent, then God will not force repentance on such a person. God grants repentance, but a person must want to receive it. A person who maliciously rejects Christ, would only continue to live in misery and pain, and that is why God will save such a person from eternal misery, by destroying him in a lake of fire.
After those described in Revelation 20:11–12 are resurrected in a second resurrection, a third category of people is addressed in verses 13–15. These will be raised in a third resurrection, to receive their sentence and be thrown into the lake of fire—to be exterminated, permanently. This is another truth which virtually nobody outside the Church of God understands (and even some in the Church of God who once understood this truth of a third resurrection have rejected it as well). Nowhere does the Bible teach an everlasting hell fire in which the “souls” of the unrepentant sinners would be tortured forever and ever. Rather, the soul is mortal as the soul IS the person. Those in the third resurrection will be resurrected to physical life to be DESTROYED in the lake of fire.
Those who will have become immortal born-again members in the very Family of God, will rule with God and Christ for all eternity over all things (Revelation 22:5). This will be the KINGDOM OF GOD ruling over creation, with God’s plan for mankind having been completed.
In the next and last installment, we will discuss remaining major differences between doctrines of the spiritual Body of Christ—the Church of God—and deviating teachings and practices of “orthodox” Christianity.
(To Be Continued)
Lead Writer: Norbert Link