Last month, we learned that God has a master plan to recreate himself through human beings. Further, He has limited His plan to a 7,000-year process. If we overlay that blueprint with a more detailed one, we will see more of the process He is using to accomplish His purpose. As individual boards must be placed in a certain order to build a house, God's plan for a spiritual house is revealed: In a deliberate, planned order, each of His holy days highlights a specific step in His work to "build" children in His image.
Leviticus 23, where God lists the festivals and holy days that He gave His people, summarizes His more detailed plan. The weekly Sabbath is the first holy day God commands us to keep, reminding us of His purpose (verses 1-3). The rest of the chapter describes the individual holy days we are to keep "in their seasons" each year. God has us do this so that we never forget His plan for mankind and that we will pass it from generation to generation as our children ask, "Why do we do this?" (Exodus 12:25-27).
1. How do we know the holy days show the whole plan of God and not just remind the Israelites of how God freed them from Egypt? Matthew 26:17-29; I Corinthians 5:2-8; Acts 2:1-17; I Corinthians 15:23-58; Acts 27:9; John 7:37.
Comment: Not only did Jesus and his disciples keep the Old Testament holy days—even after Christ returned to His Father—but also new meanings were given to them. Jesus clearly changed the symbols of Passover from a sacrificial lamb to the bread and wine representing His body and blood given for our forgiveness. Paul shows in I Corinthians 5 that unleavened bread represents sin in our lives. These passages begin to reveal the plan of God, beginning with repentance and forgiveness and concluding with the resurrection of the dead as members of His Family.
2. In the process of changing mankind to God, does God proceed in a particular order? I Corinthians 14:40; 15:23; Revelation 20:4-6, 12-15.
Comment: God is not haphazard; He is a God of order. Christ deals with four distinct groups of people, to whom He offers salvation and/or resurrects at different times:
1. The living or dead who have accepted God's covenant.
2. The living who have not accepted His covenant.
3. The dead who did not know God.
4. The living or dead who have known and rejected Him.
These four categories cover every person ever born!
3. Who is very first in the plan of salvation? Romans 8:29; I Corinthians 15:23; John 3:13-15.
Comment: Jesus Christ opened the way for salvation by coming to this earth to live a perfect life and die for our sins. This is the primary meaning of the Passover. He is the first and only (at this point) to ascend to the Father, but is just the firstborn among many brethren.
4. What group does Christ work with first? Acts 2:1-4, 38-39; Hebrews 12:23; James 1:18.
Comment: After accepting Christ's sacrifice, Christians must come out of the world and conquer their sinful natures. This is the meaning of the days of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:15-20; I Corinthians 5:7-8). Pentecost, the next holy day, reminds us of God's founding of the New Testament church and giving it His Holy Spirit. That church, with the patriarchs (Hebrews 11:13-16, 39-40; Revelation 6:9-11) and others who qualified before their deaths, God calls His "firstfruits," His early harvest of children.
5. When do the firstfruits receive their reward in His Kingdom? I Corinthians 15:49-57; I Thessalonians 4:16-17; Revelation 10:7; 20:4-6.
Comment: The Feast of Trumpets follows Pentecost. When Christ returns at the last trumpet, He will gather His elect, both living and dead. Changed to spirit, they will enter God's Kingdom and rule with Christ a thousand years.
6. Who comprises the second group? Matthew 24:21-22; Ezekiel 5; Isaiah 43:5-6; 66:18; Jeremiah 31:10-12, 31-34.
Comment: Just before Christ returns, the disasters of the end time will kill most people on earth, and afterwards, He will gather those left of all nations. A thousand years of peace and prosperity will follow, during which those who live into the Millennium, along with any children born during it, will be able to be saved. The Feast of Tabernacles, in the fall or late harvest, represents this time.
7. Who makes up the third group? Revelation 20:5, 7-12; Ezekiel 37-38; Luke 11:31-32.
Comment: The only people left who have not had a chance for salvation will be resurrected to physical life at this time. This includes everyone, small and great—babies, adults, the elderly—anyone who died in ignorance of God's way. The Last Great Day of the Feast foreshadows this Great White Throne Judgment (John 7:37). This judgment may last a hundred years (Isaiah 65:20), during which these people can learn and accept God's way of life.
8. At this point, everyone from Adam on will have had an opportunity for salvation. Christ has to deal with only one more group. Who are they? What happens to them? Hebrews 10:26-27; Revelation 20:13-15.
Comment: In His Kingdom God does not want people who refuse to live in peace, harmony and love. Those who rejected salvation will be resurrected for a final judgment and burned in an all-consuming fire (II Peter 3:10-12). The wicked will die forever. No feast day pictures this sorrowful event; it will pass and be remembered no more (Psalm 34:16). God gives us His feast days that we might remember His plan and qualify for a better resurrection than the wicked (Hebrews 11:35).