Three Pilgrimage Feasts

Is there a difference between a Holy Day and a Feast Day? Should the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Pentecost be observed in a manner similar to the Feast of Tabernacles? Are there three pilgrimage feasts?

What is a Holy Day? What is a Feast Day? Is there a difference? What does the Bible say relative to the observance of these days? Is the Christian to be diligent in observing ALL the days God has ordained? Is one Feast Day above another in importance?

Colossians 2:16-17 states, "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ." Jesus Christ will do the judging. We shall all one day appear before the judgment seat, to be examined against the Book ó the Bible, all of it. Donít worry about what men say. Follow what God says.

A Sabbath and New Moon are different from a Holy Day. As we shall see, they all are divine appointments, special times to God, appointed by Him for us to observe.

MOED, Appointed Times, Feasts

Leviticus 23 summarizes all the major feasts of the Lord. To distinguish between the different characteristics of the various types of days, the Hebrew words help us to understand how God looks at His special times. The word for "feasts of the LORD," and "My feasts," in verse 2, and verses 4, 37, 44 is the Hebrew moed, Strongís #4150, which means "appointed season or set time, solemn feast, congregation, set feast."

So we see from Leviticus 23 that the weekly Sabbath, Passover, the Seven-Day Feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of Firstfruits (Pentecost), Day of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, the Seven Days of the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Last Great Day are all moed, divine appointments. Numbers 10:10 also indicates that the beginnings of months, or New Moons, are moed, "solemn days."

These appointed times are not chosen or set by man, but by the Eternal God. He says that they are His Feasts (moed), Leviticus 23:2. Some individuals have a habit of missing their appointments. Let us not be so careless with the Almighty! He expects us to keep our appointments with Him.

Mikra Kodesh, Holy Days, Sabbaths

Certain of these moed are special in that they are ALSO holy convocations (mikra kodesh, meaning "a called out, public meeting, that is hallowed, pure, sacred, dedicated"). On such "Holy Days" no work may be done. The literal Hebrew is graphic in telling us exactly what is forbidden: "all occupational servitude, NO!" The weekly Sabbath, 15th and 21st days of the first month (Unleavened Bread Holy Days), Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement, and the 15th and 22nd days of the seventh month (first day of Tabernacles and Last Great Day) are such Holy Day convocations ó mikra kodesh, sacred meetings.

They are all Sabbaths in the sense of being days of rest. The apostle John noted that Nisan 15 (first day of Unleavened Bread) was a special Sabbath: "The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day, (for that Sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away," John 19:31.

So we have moed, a general term for the Feasts of the Eternal, and mikra kodesh, Holy Day convocations, or Sabbaths. Yet there is a third term we need to understand. For without this, we would only partially observe Godís days, and God wants us to keep the whole law, not just a few points! See James 2:8-10. There is much precious Truth that the Church needs to learn about the Biblical Holy Days of the Almighty!

Hag, Festivals, Feast Days

Leviticus 23:6, "And on the fifteenth day of the same [first] month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread." The Hebrew word for "feast" is not moed, but hag meaning "festival, solemn feast day, sacrifice." It comes from the word hagag, meaning "to move in a circle, march in sacred procession, observe or celebrate, dance, keep a feast." The hag of Unleavened Bread lasts seven days.

Likewise in Leviticus 23:34, "The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast [hag] of tabernacles for seven days unto the LORD."

Elsewhere we find that Pentecost is also a hag day, the "Feast of Weeks," Deuteronomy 16:10, and Exodus 34:22. In Ezekiel 45:21, we are told that "Passover" or the Feast of Unleavened Bread, is "a feast of seven days." Likewise Passover day is a hag: "neither shall the sacrifice of the feast [hag] of the Passover be left unto the morning," Exodus 34:25.

It is significant that in all the Scriptural uses of hag, there is not one specific use of the term hag, referring to an individual Holy Day such as the Sabbath, Day of Trumpets, or Day of Atonement. In fact, hag days, or Feast Days, have a different meaning than Holy Days (moed). There are precious few of Godís people who have carefully considered the distinction.

Passover Day (Nisan 14), Nisan 16-20 (the days between the first and last Holy Days of Unleavened Bread), as well as the last six days of the Feast of Tabernacles (Tishri 16-21) are hag days, Feast Days. They are not Holy Days or mikra kodesh. Nisan 15 and 21, Pentecost, and Tishri 1, 10, 15 and 22 are Holy Days as well as Feast Days. Of course ALL these days are moed, Godís appointed festival times.

Why, one might ask, is there a distinction? What is the difference? Is it important? These intervening days of Unleavened Bread and Tabernacles are not without an important meaning for us. NO, they are not Sabbaths, nor Holy Days upon which no work is permitted. Neither are they days that we should do our own pleasure like an ordinary day. They are not routine days, but hag days, "feast days of God."

Unleavened Bread is to be eaten on each of the intervening Days of the Feast (hag) of Unleavened Bread, Leviticus 23:6. One must dwell in booths seven days during the Feast (hag) of Tabernacles, verse 42.

Three Pilgrimage Feasts ó Hag Times ó A Year

There are three times [same word as "feet," meaning pilgrimages] a year we are to keep a feast ó hagag ó unto God in a year, Exodus 23:14. Since they are times of leaving home and making a pilgrimage to the place God dwells, these three hag (feast) times cannot mean that we go about our normal activities.

Jews refer to the intervening days of Passover and Tabernacles as hol ha-moed, or half Holy Days, both weekdays and Holy Days. By implication, the day between Pentecost and the preceding Sabbath would also be a moed katan, or lesser Holy Day.

McClintock and Strongís Bible Cyclopaedia, article "Passover," says that in Temple times, the people "indulged in public amusements, as dances, songs, games, etc., to fill up the time in harmony with the joyful and solemn character of the festival. The work allowed to be done during the middle days of the festival was restricted to irrigating dry land, digging watercourses, repairing conduits, reservoirs, roads, marketplaces, baths, whitewashing tombs, etc. Dealers in fruit, garments, or in utensils were allowed to sell privately what was required for immediate use. Whatever the emergencies of the public service required, or was necessary for the festival, or any occupation the omission of which might cause loss or injury, was permitted. Hence no new graves were allowed to be dug, nor wives espoused, nor houses, slaves, or cattle purchased, except for the use of the festival . . . as in all the festivals, cheerfulness was to prevail during the whole week, and all care was to be laid aside." Thus, the Feasts ó hag days ó are not to be times of mourning, but of gladness, Ecclesiastes 3:4, Nehemiah 8:2, 9-10.

Many understand that the Feast of Tabernacles is to be an annual occasion of leaving oneís home and going to Godís place for a full eight days. Yet most do not realize that Passover and Unleavened Bread, and Pentecost are likewise pilgrimage feasts in the same way as Tabernacles. Perhaps more would understand, if they knew the difference between Holy Days and Feast Days.

One is not keeping the Feast (hag) of Unleavened Bread by only resting the first and last Holy Days, in the meantime returning to oneís normal work. Read Deuteronomy 16:1-8.

The Place Where God Chooses to Place His Name

There are three Feast (hag) times of the year, during which one must appear before the Eternal at the appointed place. Passover and Unleavened Bread are to be observed "in the place which the Eternal thy God shall choose," Deuteronomy 16:6-8. The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) is a time of rejoicing "in the place which the Lord thy God hath chosen to place His name," verses 10-11. The Feast of Tabernacles is a seven-day feast "in the place which the Lord shall choose," verses 13-15.

Deuteronomy 16:16 summarizes: "Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God in the place which He shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the Lord empty." The word for these three "feast" times is hag. This word is never used specifically in reference to the Day of Trumpets or the Day of Atonement. These three feast times are times to appear before God, not to go about our daily work. This is a command of the Almighty God.

Where is the place to observe these three feast times in this age?

In the wilderness, it was at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, Exodus 29:42-43. In the promised land, the place was originally Shiloh, I Samuel 1:3, and Judges 21:19. Later the proper place was at the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70. Jesus knew the hour would come when worship of God at His feast times would be at places other than Jerusalem, John 4:21-24. The place is not as important as worshiping God in Spirit and in Truth. The New Testament Church kept the feasts in localized areas, Acts 20:5-6.

So today there is NOT one place where God has chosen to place His name. He places His name on His people, the children of God, John 17:11, 21-23. Where they are gathered together, God is in their midst, Matthew 18:20. Brethren of like faith should make every effort to meet together in the worship of God, Hebrews 10:24-25. It should be a place where the cares of this life, this worldís influences, do not interfere with the spiritual aspect of the Feast. Such a place will indeed be blessed by the Almighty.

Following the Example of David and Hezekiah

Righteous Saints of old obeyed God in keeping these three pilgrimage feasts each year. God blessed them abundantly for their obedience. Will we do likewise? David, a man after Godís own heart, obeyed God in keeping His feasts. Those who follow David will be doing the same things David did! Notice II Chronicles 30:13, 21-22, "And there assembled at Jerusalem much people to keep the feast [hag] of Unleavened Bread . . . . And the children of Israel that were present at Jerusalem kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with great gladness: and the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day by day, singing with loud instruments unto the LORD. And Hezekiah spake comfortably unto all the Levites that taught the good knowledge of the LORD: and they did eat throughout the feast seven days, offering peace offerings, and making confession to the LORD God of their fathers." This is the way zealous people observe Godís seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Hezekiah kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread a full seven days! Just as his father David did! II Chronicles 29:1-2, "Hezekiah . . . did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done." Such a proper feast had not been done for a long time before Hezekiah, 30:1, 5. Not since the time of Solomon, verse 26. So Hezekiah led the nation of Judah in a return to God, to the righteous acts of David and Solomon. God was instrumental in their return to Him: "Also in Judah the hand of God was to give them one heart to do the commandment of the king and of the princes, by the word of the LORD," II Chronicles 30:12.

Following Godís ways results in blessings, II Chronicles 31:10-12. "And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the LORD his God. And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered," verses 20-21.

Ahaz, the wicked king before Hezekiah, "did not that which was right in the sight of the LORD, like David his father . . . . Wherefore the LORD his God delivered him into the hand of the king of Syria, and they smote him, and carried away a great multitude of them captives . . . ," II Chronicles 28:1, 5.

The choice is before us today: follow David in obedience to God, and be blessed, or donít follow David and be cursed.

Josiah Revival Needed Today

The history of Godís people has had continual ups and downs throughout the ages. Obedience for a time, then departure, then a revival, and so on.

After Hezekiah, there was a departure under Kings Manasseh and Amon. Under King Josiah, the book of the law was found and the covenant was renewed. Immediately idols were put away and the greatest Passover was kept, a true and great feast unto God, II Chronicles 34 and 35. The mark of a zealous people in their return unto God is proper observance of a full seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Such a feast requires a great deal of preparation, of making ready, II Chronicles 35:1, 4, 6, 14, 15. Then a seven-day period of rejoicing, "And the children of Israel that were present kept the Passover at that time and the feast of unleavened bread seven days," verse 17.

Once again, a righteous king led Judah in a return unto God, a return to the acts of David. "Josiah . . . did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the ways of David his father, and declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left," II Chronicles 34:1-2. Those today who are seeking the God of David, verse 3, and have "found" understanding of the book of the law, verse 15, will do likewise.

Jesus Christ is our Passover, I Corinthians 5:7, our example, I Peter 2:21. He kept the Passover a full seven days, Luke 2:40-43. He gave us an example in studying Godís word in the intervening days between the first and the last Holy Days of the Feast. The apostles, after Christís death and resurrection, kept a full seven day feast, Acts 20:6.

Many of Godís Church of our time observed the Feast of Unleavened Bread a full seven days, as a pilgrimage feast. Since the late 1960s most, like ancient Israel, have watered down and compromised Godís truth, Matthew 5:19. A few in Hezekiahís and Josiahís time stirred themselves up again to zealously obey God. Sadly, these were the exceptions, not the rule.

"So there was great joy in Jerusalem: for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there was not the like in Jerusalem," II Chronicles 30:26. The result of this obedience? Verse 27, "Then the priests the Levites arose and blessed the people: and their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to His holy dwelling place, even unto heaven."

"And there was no Passover like to that kept in Israel from the days of Samuel the prophet; neither did all the kings of Israel keep such a Passover as Josiah kept . . . ," II Chronicles 35:18. Josiah and the true followers of God kept the greatest Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread since the days of Samuel. So Samuel did keep it in the right way. Samuel, David, Solomon, Hezekiah and Josiah: all these righteous men of old kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven full days.

Are Passover and Pentecost Minor Feasts?

Is one of the Three Pilgrimage Feasts more important than all the others? This is what some would have us believe. They say, "The Feast of Tabernacles is the only time when Godís people should all be together." Is this true? Jesusí example, Luke 2:41-43, and that of the New Testament Church, Acts 2:1 show that Passover and Unleavened Bread and Pentecost were equally as important as the Feast of Tabernacles, John 7:2, 10, 37.

Why do some people celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles as a pilgrimage Feast, and not Passover and Pentecost? The primary reason they give is economic. Many do not properly utilize their second tithe. They waste it one time for Tabernacles and leave nothing to properly celebrate the other two feasts. They may feel that to take off additional time from their jobs in the spring would result in loss of their jobs or severe financial hardship. Thus, the primary reason why most do not follow God in observing ALL His Feasts has to do with money, a root of all evil. Wasting (stealing) Godís tithes and shows lack of faith that God will protect and provide.

How are Godís second tithes wasted? Members are forced to travel long distances to a minister-designated Feast of Tabernacles site, that does not take the whole group into consideration. One man had to spend more than $1,000 airfare for his family just to attend one Feast. The New Testament Church kept the Feasts in localized areas, such as Philippi (in modern Greece) and Troas (in modern Turkey), as shown in Acts 20:5-6. It was as Jesus said, that the time would come when Jerusalem would not be the only place for worshipping God at His Feasts, John 4:21-24.

Once the members arrive at the Feast site, they often squander their money by staying at excessively expensive motels and eating in expensive restaurants. This is often the result of ministerial example. They waste their time by traveling long distances to daily services and to restaurants, as well as superfluous amusements. One young bachelor told us that he had so much second tithe, that he had a hard time spending it!

Godís money is often thrown away in a physically-oriented Feast. No wonder most brethren do not have the money to observe three such annual orgies! Instead, they are told that because of economic considerations, some may be able to attend a Feast of Tabernacles only every other year. This is an open admission that the curses for disobedience of Godís law are being experienced.

It is true that some face the prospect of financial hardship if they were to step out in faith and observe three annual pilgrimage feasts as the Bible commands. This situation has been ordained by the Almighty so that those who do have extra second tithe can ó and should ó assist those who do not have enough. When those who have excess waste it, and those who barely have enough are not wise planners, or are too proud to ask for help, it doesnít work out right.

The Right Kind of Feast

Instead, why not have a Belknap Springs type of Feast, like the Radio Church of God observed in the late 1940s? Such an inexpensive resort area with camping facilities and cabins, isolated from the world, may be difficult to find. However, Godís people need a place where all the brethren are together in one place, in one accord. Wouldnít it be great to have a common kitchen and dinning hall for healthful meals prepared at a reasonable cost, and guaranteed "kosher"! This makes possible a Feast that is a time to park your car for a whole feast time and live close to Godís creation, praying to God at a special secret place on a rock or a hill, off a hiking trail. At this type of place, brethren and families can really enjoy spiritual and physical fellowship. They can sing hymns by a campfire at night. Many more possibilities for truly rejoicing are available, when you do it Godís way.

In the early years of the Radio (later the name was changed to Worldwide) Church of God, Herbert Armstrong was inspired to do it right. Why have we departed? The Church in its earlier years kept the Feasts three times a year. Now, as one minister said, we are more sophisticated. We stay in luxury motels, eat in high-class restaurants, hire maids and servants to make our beds, serve our meals, even on Godís Sabbaths. We rush through traffic to be on time for services at a city convention center. Rush here, rush there. An honor to God? Who are we trying to kid? Some plan for this annual vacation many months in advance. Feast of Unleavened Bread? Pentecost? By their actions, many are saying these are merely minor Holy Days.

By following the Bible, there would be plenty of money for three pilgrimage feasts for all. Where is our faith? Godís Word promises protection for our property "when thou shalt go up to appear before the LORD thy God thrice in the year," Exodus 34:24. Donít you think that God could also protect your job, provide enough income for your family if you took off from work without pay, in order to obey God? The Eternal is waiting to bless us, if we obey Him and step out in faith.

Why There Are Three Pilgrimage Feasts

The Feast of Tabernacles pictures the Millennium, the time of abundance, the great harvest time. Everyone wants that. Everyone wants to be in Godís Kingdom. So it is not surprising that the Feast of Tabernacles is the chief ó and only ó pilgrimage Feast for many people.

How do we obtain the World Tomorrow? Through the sacrifice of Jesus and His blood, putting sin out of our lives, obeying God, receiving His Spirit and overcoming, pictured by Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, and Pentecost. This requires work. No great fall harvest is reaped without work. The carnal-minded person wants the benefits of Godís Kingdom (Feast of Tabernacles) without going through the work to obtain it (spring Holy Days).

It takes Godís work in us, to be a living sacrifice, Romans 12:1-2, properly keeping Passover. It takes work to put sin out of our lives that so easily besets us, truly being Unleavened Believers. It takes work to be spiritually minded. Note that the Holy Spirit is given only as we obey Him, Acts 5:32, those who keep the true Pentecost.

Several have said, why put a burden upon Godís people? Manís burdens are heavy, but the Messiahís burdens are light. Jesus said that whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it. Those who give up their lives in service and obedience to God, seeking Him, shall save their lives.

The day of Godís wrath is soon coming. Will we be spared as the Israelites were in Egypt, when the death angel passed at midnight? Is the blood of the Lamb sprinkled on our doorposts? Read Isaiah 26:20-21 and 31:5. Then decide for yourself what it will be: Will you keep only Godís Holy Days and not all of His Feast Days? Or, will you instead keep all of Godís Holy Days and Feast Days, including the three annual Pilgrimage Feasts?

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