It is no secret that modern-day “Christian” holidays such as Easter or Christmas are not found in the Bible. In reality Christ tells us to keep holy something completely different from what mainstream Christianity is keeping holy. We are to remember and commemorate His Holy Days, as revealed in the Old and New Testament. What are these days and what do they stand for?
God’s Spring Holy Days
1. Passover: Some take the Passover mistakenly for what is now called Easter. Be this as it may, Old and New Testament agree on what this day signifies: The death of Jesus Christ, NOT his resurrection. Nowhere in the Bible are we told to commemorate His resurrection. Through Christ’s death our sins are forgiven and we obtain the unmerited grace to be given eternal life at His return (1. Thessalonians 4:17; 1. Corinthians 15:51-53).
As shown in Exodus 12:43-49, Leviticus 23:5 and other passages, the Passover is to be kept on the 14th of Nisan, which is during the first of the Hebrew months – usually March or April according to the modern western calendar. Christ Himself kept the Passover on exactly the 14th Nisan every year and He died as our lamb without spot and blemish (1. Peter 1:19; John 1:29; Isaiah 53:7) exactly when the Jews were eating their Passover a day late. On His last Passover He introduces the new symbols of the foot-washing (John 13:15), bread and wine (Matthew 26:26-30). Faithful Christians observe the Passover just as Christ did – up to this day. Through the Passover the covenant with God is renewed and our sins are symbolically washed away; we are given the promise of eternal life (John 6:53-58).
2. The Days of Unleavened Bread: While the Passover is not that unknown amongst Christians, this festival is usually completely foreign to most. Nonetheless, it is God’s second Holy Day that signifies our departure from sin (or sinful and ungodly Egypt as Israel left Egypt in that time). This Feast is the next logical step after our purification on Passover. God has commanded us to only eat unleavened bread – without yeast or any raising agent – for seven days (Leviticus 23:6-8; Deuteronomy 16:3-4).
Christ likened leaven (a raising agent) to hypocrisy (Luke 12:1) and the apostle Paul explained that leaven puffs up and leads to sin. Paul explicitly told us to keep this Feast in 1. Corinthians 5:6-8. Why keep Easter and not the days of which Moses, Christ and the apostles said to keep holy?
For the Israelites the Days of Unleavened Bread were a reminder of their time in Egypt and the flight out of it. For us personally the Days of Unleavened Bread stand for our efforts to improve and leave our old, sinful lifestyles (ancient Egypt is a symbol of sin). Removing and not consuming leaven reminds us every single day of those seven days of our calling, task and goal.
3. Pentecost: This is yet again a well-known Holy Day. Catholics and Protestants recognize and celebrate it, but do they understand its meaning? We know that the apostles kept that day after Christ’s death since they were all together on that day (Acts 2:1). Paul also mentioned Pentecost to the originally pagan Corinthians as if it was a completely normal day to know about (1. Corinthians 16:8). In the Old Testament we find Pentecost, for example, in Leviticus 23:15-22 and Numbers 28:26.
Pentecost was the day when the Church was founded in 31 AD since the Holy Spirit was given to Jesus’ followers. The Holy Spirit is what makes a Christian (Romans 8:9.14). Through the Spirit we will be given eternal life (Ephesians 1:13-14) and only through the Spirit are we part of Christ’s Church. Peter says in Acts 2:38 that we are given God’s Spirit only after repentance and baptism. Since Pentecost is the Feast of the “Firstfruits” (Leviticus 23:17), it signifies the “first” harvest in God’s plan – the small flock that is being called out now. This is why the Bible speaks about two resurrections: Acts 24:15; Revelation 20:5 – when there is a “first” resurrection, there must be a second one to follow at a later point (1000 years later, as the same chapter in Revelation shows). Therefore Pentecost stands for a first small harvest (a spring harvest) while a much bigger harvest is yet to come. Or with the words of the Letter to the Hebrews: Some obtain “a better resurrection” (Hebrews 11:35). A “better resurrection” implies that there must be at least two different resurrections, as mentioned above. God’s Firstfruits, His called and chosen ones (Matthew 24:14), will be resurrected when Christ returns while the rest of humanity (“the rest of the dead”, Rev. 20:5) still has to wait for their promised resurrection.