A Guide to the Christian Observance of the Biblical Sabbath, Feasts, and Holy Days
When Walt Disney translated his dreams from the movies to the real world by creating
Disneyland in California in the mid-1950s, he inspired a whole new generation of
recreational possibilities, the advent of the Theme Park.
Vacationers could sample a wide variety of experiences in one central location that
would take years of travel to experience otherwise.
In fact, some of those experiences would be impossible anywhere else, as they were
based on history, fantasy, and science fiction. Walt created a number of "lands"
that took only a short walk to move between. Included were ...
Frontierland, going back in history,
Tomorrowland, going into the future,
and Fantasyland, going into the imagination.
Later this same Theme Park idea was exported across the country to Florida and came
to life as Walt Disney World. WDW’s Magic Kingdom, opened in 1971, was much like
Disneyland, with some of the same attractions, only on a grander scale. Walt had
also planned for WDW an “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.”
Walt died in 1966 and didn’t even live to see the completion of the Magic Kingdom.
But his associates took his Community of Tomorrow concept, adjusted it for changed
conditions, and created EPCOT Center, which debuted in 1982.
Here vacationers could not only go backward in time for a peek at the history of
communications, and forward into new frontiers of science, but also around the world
for miniature visits to such lands as
Norway and Mexico.
Since the 1960s, many other Theme Parks have sprung up across the country and around
Busch Gardens re-creates for visitors various animal habitats, from an African veldt
with giraffes and elephants, to jungle environments populated by "gorillas in the
Sea World recreates the wildlife on, in, and near oceans of the world, from polar
bears to killer whales, dolphins, sharks, sting rays, and giant sea turtles.
... and giant sea turtles
What is the appeal of such Theme Parks? Why do people spend large amounts of money
and time to travel from all over the world to such places as Walt Disney World?
Theme Parks give them an opportunity to:
Come out of their everyday world with its stress—or boredom—and thus be refreshed.
Experience at least a small sample of a variety of environments they might never
Learn things about their world and themselves that can’t be learned just by reading
or watching a video.
Into Another World
If you have ever gone to Disneyland or Walt Disney World, you are familiar with one
of the typical ways you enter a new experience in such a Theme Park. As you approach
the attraction, after waiting in line for a time, you find yourself alongside a conveyor
belt. It is going a different direction from the one you were headed, at a different
speed. Once you step on it, you are propelled where those walking by outside cannot
see—into "another world."
Usually you step from that conveyor belt into a vehicle of some sort, pull down the
safety railing, and sit back as you turn the corner into an environment totally unlike
that from which you came.
God Himself built into creation, long before the birth of Walt Disney, several such
Theme Parks. But unlike our Theme Parks, they don’t occupy a special "place" you
can fly or drive to. They are actually Theme Times—they occupy special periods of
time during the year.
Our daily world occupies a certain "time frame." We move along in it at a certain
rate, based on our perception of time—days, weeks, months, years. All of this is
connected in our minds with the calendar we use. But most people, including many
folks who would label themselves as "Christians," are likely unaware that the Bible
itself does not use the same calendar we do in 21st Century America. The characters
in the Bible lived by a totally different calendar. It’s as if we and they are on
two conveyor belts, going in different directions at different speeds.
If you step off our belt, onto the other one—into "Bible time"—you can experience
a different dimension. It’s not a "3-D" one like Walt Disney World. You’ll have to
use your imagination more, and check your Bible to get your bearings. But if you
take that step, you will find that you will get some of the same benefits that vacationers
do at EPCOT. You will:
Come out of your everyday world with its stress—or boredom—and be refreshed.
Experience environments—past, present and future—you may not have even known existed.
Learn things about God’s creation and yourself that can’t be learned just by reading
about them—even by reading the Bible!
God created His "conveyor belt of time" so that there are varied themes to experience
depending on the time of year you choose to step on that belt, away from your regular
way of counting time. Other portions of this Times of Refreshing series will explore
some of those themes.
If you want to make an appointment to see a friend later this year, you will probably
look at a calendar on your wall, on your desk, or in your planning book, and discuss
what month and day you will meet. But you will not likely pause to wonder where the
names of the months came from, how they got in the order they are in, why they have
varying numbers of days, why we have a "leap year" at times with an extra day in
February, and so on. Most of us just learned these facts by memory in our grade school
years, never questioning their origin. The assumption of most may be "it’s always
been this way." But it hasn’t "always been this way"!
Just as a quick sample, consider the name of our "tenth month." It is called "October"—yet
the prefix "oct" means "eight." Think of such words as "octopus" (an eight-legged
creature) and "octet" (a singing group with eight members). Obviously, something
is amiss here! In fact, the last four months of our twelve-month calendar year have
names which should indicate "seven, eight, nine, and ten"—since sept- refers to seven,
oct- eight, nov- nine, and dec- (like in "decimal") refers to ten.
Another question most don’t ever ponder is why we change the "calendar year" on January
1. If you would like to find answers to these puzzling questions a good overview
on this topic is available at Wikipedia.com .
All of the details of the Gregorian Calendar (the official title of the calendar
commonly used in our time) have been developed by man. In the Bible, however, there
is a system of dividing up the year that was in place from the beginning of the creation.
God, at the point in the creation account described in the Bible in Genesis 1, built
into the creation a calendar and a clock. They did not need gears or paper or computers
to keep working. For the components were the sun, moon, and stars. A year is not
how long it takes you to live through the pages on your wall calendar from January
to December. Rather, it is how long it takes the earth to go around the sun.
A month is not how long it takes before you flip one of the pages on your calendar.
Rather, it is how long it takes the moon to go through all its "phases"—from a tiny
sliver, to a crescent moon, to a full moon, to a crescent in the other direction,
to totally black …and then starting again as a crescent.
Even though we use the word "month" (which is derived from the same root as "moon")
to indicate a period just about as long as this process takes (around 30 days), on
our calendars the month is not in any way connected to that process now. Check your
calendar if you have one that notes the "phases of the moon." The "new moon" shifts
to different dates on each calendar month as the year progresses.
But in the Bible, the situation is very different. For whenever a Biblical passage
speaks of the "first day of the month," it actually does mean that day when the moon
is new. It is important that you understand this principle if you are to clearly
understand some of the events in the Bible.
Another important thing to know about the calendar of the Bible is that the year
begins, not in what we call January, but in the spring of the year in the Middle
East where Biblical events took place. Thus, if a Bible passage speaks of the "first
month," it means the month around the time of the Spring Equinox (the point in the
year when day and night are equal in length) in the Northern Hemisphere.
Once you understand these two principles—that months are based on the changes in
the moon, and the year begins in spring—you can begin to learn about the Theme Times
that God created for Mankind.
This idea of Theme Times shouldn’t be totally foreign to you. People all over the
world get excited about such times they have created for themselves. I grew up in
Traverse City, a small town in northern Michigan that was known as the "Cherry Capital
of the World" for its many cherry tree orchards. And thus its civic leaders decided
in 1926 to create a week-long "National Cherry Festival."
As with most such town and city festivals, it always features a carnival with rides,
a parade with floats and bands through the city streets, competitions at the fair
grounds (such as cherry pie-eating and cherry-pit spitting contests), community decorations,
fireworks displays at night, special guest performers, and celebrities. In fact,
although Traverse City’s normal population is barely 15,000, the festival has grown
so popular in recent years that it draws nearly 500,000 visitors! Taking care of
arrangements for this annual Theme Time has by now become a year-round occupation
for many in the town!
Perhaps your town or city has a similar festival—many do. In Michigan, for instance,
there are official festivals honoring everything from maple syrup, mushrooms, and
tulips to ice fishing, Shakespeare, and C.S. Lewis. Why is this so? What is there
about Theme Times that appeals to people?
God built into man the absolute need for regular rest and refreshment, both on a
weekly basis, and at periodic times throughout the year. He also built in a desire
and appreciation for decoration, pageantry, variety, surprise, excitement. Meeting
these needs and desires allows for physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual rejuvenation.
And God created in His plan for mankind from the very beginning a way for those needs
and desires to be fulfilled. But the knowledge of that way has been lost by most
of mankind. And thus they have, in order to meet these subconscious needs and desires,
created festivals, fairs, conferences, camp meetings, and a variety of man-made holidays
to try and fill that void.
And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day
from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years ...
In this passage about the creation, the word "season" is not translated from a Hebrew
word that has anything to do with the concepts of summer, winter, spring, and fall.
It is, rather, from the word moedim—which means appointed times, special observances,
special celebrations. That is, appointed times of festivals. Thus the movements of
the sun, moon, and stars are used to establish the calendar by which God indicates
times He intended to be for regular refreshment for His people.
For God intended His people to have Theme Times—times of feasting, parades, parties,
even costumes and decorations. But His intent from the very beginning was that those
special times be centered around worshipping and rejoicing before Him. He intended
for those times to be joyful and fun—but for the centerpiece, rather than honoring
maple syrup or cherries, to be honoring Him. There is nothing wrong with man-made
festivities related to those kinds of local specialties. But what "lessons for life"
does one learn from a tulip festival or ice-fishing festival? Since most people have
only limited "vacation time," would it not seem more suitable for Christians to find
out what "times" God created specifically for them, and use those times to full advantage?
And since the Bible is the foundation of the Christian Faith, wouldn’t it be sensible
for Christians to look in that book to find when and how God intended for them to
rejoice before Him?
Bible Theme Times
The Theme Times in the Bible are based on the calendar of the sun, moon, and stars.
When God took Israel out of bondage in Egypt, He told them:
This month [beginning with the first new moon in Spring] is to be for you the first
month, the first month of your year. (Exodus 12:2)
And then later He told them about the moedim—the appointed times they were to have
to rejoice before Him.
The LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'These are my appointed
feasts, the appointed feasts of the LORD, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.
Note that He didn’t say, "These are your feasts," or "These are the feasts of the
Jews," or any such limiting designation. He said these are "my appointed feasts."
He put in place the sun, moon, and stars so that men could see when the time approached
for such celebrations!
There are three such annual times of celebration, called "Feasts," with seven special
days, called "Holy Days," connected to them. (For clarification on these terms, see
the articles What Is a Biblical "Feast"? and What Is a Biblical "Holy Day"? elsewhere
on this Times of Refreshing website.)
Many Christians are surprised to learn that the biblical Feasts and Holy Days are
relevant to Christians. After all, they seem to many, on just a surface reading of
the Old Testament, to be related only to the system of priesthood rituals and sacrifices
connected to the ancient Israelites and their Tabernacle or Temple. For an explanation
regarding the relevance of the Old Testament to Christians, see the article Concealing
and Revealing elsewhere on this website. Each one of these Feasts and Holy Days has
many lessons built in to the observance, lessons about history, the future, prophecy,
the ways of God, the truths of the Bible. And, most important of all, each one points
directly to--foreshadows--our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (For an explanation of
the concept of a foreshadow, see the article What Are "Shadows" and "Foreshadows"?
elsewhere on this website.) As a complete set, these celebrations teach about His
life, death, resurrection, empowerment of His church with the Holy Spirit, His eventual
Return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and the eternal destiny of those who are
His when He returns.
God did not intend these Feasts and Holy Days ... these Theme Times ... to be times
of solemn, gloomy, boring "religious rituals." He intended for them to be, in one
sense, regular "family reunions" of those who call Him Father, and who call Jesus
Elder Brother. He intended His people to have fun at these times, rejoicing in many
ways including singing, feasting, laughing, enjoying camaraderie among people of
all ages. They are not times when just individual families stay in their isolated
homes to have small parties, but rather times when all the members of the "Family
of God" in an area get together and celebrate.
The rest of the articles on this Times of Refreshing website show you how to use
your Bible to step out of this present world onto the "conveyor belt" that will take
you into the Theme Times of God.
Many people who accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, whether they refer to themselves
as "Christian" or "Messianic," observe the biblical Feasts and Holy Days as times
of worship, fellowship, and celebration. They believe that these Feasts and Holy
Days are shadows pointing to the reality of Jesus. And they believe that there are
valuable spiritual lessons to be learned year by year through actually physically
setting aside these times as "appointments with God."
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