VOL.6 NO. 2 © 1997INTERNET EDITION
IN THIS ISSUE:
The Feast Of Tabernacles October 18 Thru 25, 1997
Is The Law Still For Today?
Question & Answers
A New Look At Pentecost
THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES OCTOBER 18 THRU 25, 1997
by Mark Carr
The theme for the Feast this year will be: "Jesus, The Main Attraction". We urge all of you to join us for eight days of worship and fellowship. This year there are two beautiful sites to pick from, arrangements have been made to hold the Feast in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Lake Worth, Florida. Both are attractive settings in which to keep God's Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day. Please make your reservations TODAY and let us know you are coming.
Observing the Feast of Tabernacles is an important spiritual event. Many other denominations recognize the importance of spending a week living in a temporary dwelling while worshiping God. However, no amount of camp meetings, etc., can replace the eight days of exclusive worship that God commands us to observe at the time that He sanctifies. Only God can create "Holy Time". If we are faithful and obey His commandments, He will bless us spiritually. Please come and recharge your "spiritual batteries". The best way to do this is worship, relaxation and fellowship at the Feast of Tabernacles.
We must never forget that the Feast is a sacred celebration that God has given us as a gift. He has commanded us to set aside a small portion of our wages each week so that, in the fall, we can spend eight days with our family and friends worshiping Him. No debt, no worries and no pressure. To assure our enjoyment, He commands us to take the money that we save and "buy whatever our heart desires" (Deu 14:26). What a great and awesome God we have! Why would anyone refuse to obey Him?
For those of you who choose south Florida, Neville Gilbert and the Lake Worth Church will be observing the Feast in Lake Worth again. They are a loving and caring group who welcome everyone. Give this site serious consideration, for more information, call Neville at (561) 585-4580.
To observe this sacred Festival we have reserved the meeting room at Station One Hotel. Friday night, October 17, at 7:30-9:30 PM, is hospitality night with coffee and cookies. There will also be a meeting for everyone planning to speak this year. If you have a sermon or a sermonette prepared, please make every effort to attend.
Remember to bring your musical instruments for song services, special music and the fun show. Ideas and volunteers are needed for special events to be held each afternoon and evening. We also ask that everyone bring a baby picture of themselves for one of the special events. If your children are planning to participate in the children's services, please contact Cheryl Miller at (704) 728-8250, A.S.A.P. so supplies can be ordered.
If anyone has announcements or sermons they wish to give at Virginia Beach, please contact Charles Kimbrough @ (352) 382-0877, or Mark Carr @ (423) 922-5420.
With lots of sunshine and reasonably priced attractions, we can look forward to having a great time this year. The address for the meeting room and accommodations is listed below.
Station One Hotel, 2321 Atlantic Ave, Virginia Beach, VA 23451, phone 1-800-435-2424. Because most of us will be staying here, we will receive a substantial discount on rates. They are offering us a special rate of $35 a night. Make your reservations today and tell them you are with United Biblical Churches of God to receive a discounted rate. We have a block of rooms but they will be offered to the public in September if they are not reserved.
All units at Station One are oceanfront and are within easy walking distance to restaurants, shops and local attractions. All units feature cable TV, Kitchenettes, maid service, parking, coin-op laundry, outdoor heated pool with sundeck, exercise room with sauna, outdoor hot tub and the Virginia Beach Boardwalk runs directly in front of the hotel.
There is so much to do in Virginia Beach, you'll hardly know where to begin! Snooze in one of the 11,000 rooms (5,000 of them on the oceanfront), stroll the famous boardwalk with its fabulous new facelift, take a spin on the carousel, or listen to a band at the oceanfront, the sound of the waves keeping time in the background. Take a bike or a hike over marshland studded with knobby cypress trees or through a forest of water oaks draped with lacy Spanish moss. Surf the wind, chase sandpipers and watch soaring bald eagles. Go further inland and golf, shop, canoe, pick strawberries, explore a museum and fly a kite.
A colorful fleet of trolleys provides daily transportation around the oceanfront and to a variety of popular sites including the Virginia Marine Science Museum, Oceana Naval Air Station, Lynnhaven Mall, Seashore State Park, the Association for Research and Enlightenment, The newly-expanded Virginia Marine Science Museum -- and its outstanding aquariums, interactive exhibits and giant-screen IMAX(r) 3D films. One-way fare is just 50 cents for adults and children; 25 cents for seniors and persons with disabilities, and museum staff will provide patrons with a free token for the return trip. The trolley also stops at Ocean Breeze Festival Park and campgrounds near the museum.
There are obviously many things to do, we hope everyone will enjoy themself, however please don't forget the real reason we will be there; Jesus, the main attraction. Please consider joining us in worshiping God this year. This could be the best site we have ever had. I hope to see all of you at the Feast this year.
IS THE LAW STILL FOR TODAY?
by James Scott Trimm
The Nazarenes... accept Messiah in such a way that they do not cease to observe the old law... (Jerome; On Isaiah 8:14; 4th Century)
They [the Nazarenes] have no different ideas, but confess everything exactly as the Law proclaims it and in the Jewish fashion -- except for their belief in Messiah... but since they are still fettered by the Law -- circumcision, the Sabbath, and the rest they are not in accord with Christians. (Epiphanius; Panarion 29; 4th Century)
"Do not think that I have come to destroy the Torah or the Prophets. I have not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one yud or one mark will by no means pass from the Torah till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, he will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever does and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven." (Matt. 5:17-19)
WHAT IS THE LAW?
The word "Law" as it appears in the English Bible, is greatly misunderstood by modern Christendom. This word appears in the Hebrew as Torah (Strong's Heb. #8451) meaning "instruction" and in the Greek as nomos. This Greek word is actually a loan word from the Semitic languages of Hebrew and Aramaic. The primary Aramaic word for Torah in both the Tenach and New Testament portions of the Aramaic Peshitta text is namosa which comes from the Semitic root nemus meaning "to civilize." In modern Hebrew, in Israel today, parents will tell their children nemusi! meaning "be polite!"
THE LAWLESS APOSTASY
Lets face it, THE WORLD IS RELATIVELY UNIMPRESSED BY MODERN CHRISTENDOM. It is hardly a "light unto the nations" (Isa 42:6; 49:6; 51:4; 60:1-3; Mat 5:14- 16). This is because one of the false teachings running rampant through much of Christendom is: "The Law is not for today". This apostate teaching relieves man of any obligation to G-d beyond confessing a faith in the Messiah. This very destructive teaching is killing our society!
The Scriptures forewarned that the teachers of the apostasy would teach people what they want to hear (2Tim 4:3-5) and most people don't want any obligations. Yeshua warns us that these false teachers would propagate "lawlessness" (Mat 24:11-13), the word which appears in the Greek New Testament for "lawlessness" is "anomos" (Strong's Greek # 459) which joins the Greek prefix "a" (there is not; without) with the Greek word "nomos" (Law) the resulting word means literally "there is no Law" or "[we are] without the Law" one of the primary teachings of modern Christendom! Armilius (the Anti-Messiah) will uphold this very same doctrine (2Thes 2:3, 7-9). Two entire books of the New Scriptures, 2Peter and Jude, are dedicated to combating this apostate teaching. These books warn us of men who will promise "liberty" but turn from the "holy commandment" (the Law) (2Pet 2:18-21) turning "the grace of our God" into a license to sin (Jude 1:4, 14-18). Yeshua condemns these teachers saying that they would be called "least in the Kingdom of Heaven." (Mat 5:19).
Christendom has fallen deep into this apostate teaching, in fact two of Christendom's largest theological sub-sets, Dispensationalism and Replacement Theology, submit detailed theories to explain why they teach that the Law is not for today.
Dispensationalism is a form of Pre-Millenialism which replaces the eternal "covenants" with finite "ages". Two of these finite ages are "The Age of Law" which basically encompasses "Old Testament times", and "The Age of Grace" which basically encompasses "New Testament times". According to these Dispensationalists, during "Old Testament times" men were under Law, but during "New Testament times" men are under grace. Some Dispensationalists, called "Ultra-Dispensationalists", even teach that men were saved by Law in "Old Testament times," but are saved by grace in "New Testament times." As a result, Dispensationalists teach that "the Law is not for today" or "we have no Law."
Replacement Theologians teach that G-d has replaced Israel with the Church; Judaism with Christendom; The Old Testament with The New Testament; and Law with grace. As a result, they too teach that "the Law is not for today" or "we have no Law."
Now you may be saying to yourself: "Ok, so Christendom teaches lawlessness, Don't the lawless teachers of 2Peter & Jude go so far as to teach sexual immorality? Surely the lawless teachers of Christendom would never use their "the Law is not for today" teaching to promote sexual immorality." Wrong! Some of Christendom's teachers have already carried the "the Law is not for today" reasoning to its fullest and logical conclusion. A sect of Christendom known as "The Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches" has published a tract which does just that. The nameless author of the tract writes:
Another Scripture verse that is used to show that the Bible condemns the gay lifestyle is found in the Old Testament Book of Leviticus, 18:22, "Thou shalt not lie with a man as thou would with a woman." Anyone who is concerned about this prohibition should read the whole chapter or the whole Book of Leviticus: No pork, no lobster, no shrimp, no oysters, no intercourse during the menstrual period, no rare meats, no eating blood, no inter-breeding of cattle, and a whole host of other laws, including the law to kill all divorced people who remarry. As Christians, our law is from Christ. Paul clearly taught that Christians are no longer under the Old Law (for example in Galatians 3:23-24); that the Old Law is brought to an end in Christ (Romans 10:4); and its fulfillment is in love (Romans 13:8-10, Galatians 5:14).
The New Law of Christ is the Law of Love. Neither Jesus, nor Paul, nor any of the New Testament Scriptures implies that Christians are held to the cultic or ethical laws of the Mosaic Law. (Homosexuality; What the Bible Does and Does not Say; Universal Fellowship press, 1984, p.3)
Thus Christendom's teaching that "the Law is not for today" is already being used to "turn the grace of our God into perversion." (Jude 1:4; see also 2Pet 2:18-21)
Despite all of Christendom's elaborate attempts to explain why G-d is supposedly not doing things like he used to, the Scriptures tell us that G-d is eternally consistent (Mal 3:6; Heb 13:8). Men of the "Old Testament" times were just as under grace as we are today (Gen 6:8; Exo 33:12, 17; Judges 6:17f; Jer 31:2) and equally justified by faith (Gen 15:6; Rom 4:1-4; Gal 3:6; Heb 10:38-11:40; Hab 2:4; Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11) they could not have earned their salvation (Gal 2:16). The truth is that the "New Testament" contains more commandments than the "Old Testament". The New Testament contains 1050 commandments [as deliniated in Dake's Annotated Reference Bible; By Finnis Jennings Dake; N.T. pp. 313-316] while the "Old Testament" Mosaic Law contains only 613 (b.Makkot 23b).
PAUL'S TEACHINGS TWISTED
Paul is greatly misunderstood as having taught that the Law is not for today. I have met a great many who feel uncomfortable with his writings. Some of these have even, like the Ebionites of ancient times, removed Paul's writings from their canon (Eusebius; Eccl. Hist. 3:27:4). This belief that Yeshua may not have abolished the Law, but that Paul did, has been propagated since ancient times. The "Toldot Yeshu" for example, an ancient hostile Rabbinic parody on the Gospels and Acts, accuses Paul of contradicting Yeshua on this very issue (Toldot Yeshu 6:16-41; 7:3-5). At least one modern Dispensationalist, Maurice Johnson, taught that the Messiah did not abolish the Law, but that Paul did several years after the fact. He writes:
Apparently God allowed this system of Jewish ordinances to be practiced about thirty years after Christ fulfilled it because in His patience, God only gradually showed the Jews how it was that His program was changing.... Thus it was that after God had slowly led the Christians out of Jewish religion He had Paul finally write these glorious, liberating truths. (Saved by "Dry" Baptism!; a pamphlet by Maurice Johnson; pp. 9-10)
Peter warns us in the Scriptures that Paul's writings are difficult to understand. He warns us saying "...in which are some things hard to understand, which those who are untaught and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures." (2Pet 3:15-16) Paul knew that his teachings were being twisted, he mentions this in Romans, saying "And why not say, "Let us do evil that good may come"?-- as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say." (Rom 3:8)
Paul elaborates on this slanderous twist of his teachings, saying "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!..." (Rom 6:1-2) and "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the Law but under grace? Certainly not!" (Rom 6:15). So then, Paul was misunderstood as teaching because we are under grace, we need not observe the Law. Upon his visit to Jerusalem in Acts 21 Paul was confronted with this slanderous twist of his teachings. He was told "You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are who believe, and they are all zealous for the Law; but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs." (Acts 21:20-21) In order to prove that this was nothing more than slander, Paul takes the nazarite vow and goes to make offerings and sacrifices) at the Temple (Acts 21:22-26 & Num 6:13-21) demonstrating that he himself kept the Law (Acts 21:24). Paul did and said many things to prove that he both kept and taught the Law. He:
WAS PAUL A HYPOCRITE?
Being confronted with the various acts and statements of Paul which support the Law, many of the "Law is not for today" teachers accuse Paul of being hypocritical. Charles Ryrie, for example, footnotes Acts 21:24 in his Ryrie Study Bible calling Paul a "middle of the road Christian" for performing such acts. Another writer, M.A. DeHaan wrote an entire book entitled "Five Blunders of Paul" which characterizes these acts as "blunders." These teachers of lawlessness" credit Paul as the champion of their doctrine, and then condemn him for not teaching their doctrine.
If Paul was really a hypocrite, could he honestly have condemned hypocrisy so fervently (see Gal 2:11-15). Consider some of his own words:
For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a servant of the Messiah. (Gal 1:10)
For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated in Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the Good News of God in much conflict. For our exhortation did not come from deceit or uncleanness, nor was it in guile. But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness -- God is witness. (1Thes 2:1-5)
If Paul was a hypocrite, he must have been one of the slickest con-men in history!
"WORKS OF THE LAW" AND "UNDER THE LAW"
Much of the confusion about Paul's teachings on the Law involves two scripture phrases which appear in the New Testament only in Paul's writings (in Rom, Gal & 1Cor). These two phrases are "works of the Law" and "under the Law", each of which appears 10 times in the Scriptures.
The first of these phrases, "works of the Law", is best understood through its usage in Gal 2:16. Here Paul writes: "knowing that a man is not justified by WORKS OF THE LAW but by faith in Yeshua the Messiah, even we have believed in Messiah Yeshua, that we might be justified by faith in Messiah and not by the WORKS OF THE LAW; for by the WORKS OF THE LAW no flesh shall be justified." Paul uses this phrase to describe a false method of justification which is diametrically opposed to "faith in the Messiah". To Paul "works of the Law" is not an obsolete Old Testament system, but a heresy that has never been true.
The second of these phrases is "under the Law". This phrase may best be understood from its usage in Rom 6:14, "For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not UNDER THE LAW but under grace." Paul, therefore, sees "under grace" and "under the Law" as diametrically opposed, one cannot be both. The truth is that since we have always been under grace (see Gen 6:8; Exo 33:12, 17; Judges 6:17f; Jer 31:2) we have never been "under the Law". This is because the Law was created for man, man was not created for the Law (see Mark 2:27). "Under the Law" then, is not an obsolete Old Testament system, but a false teaching which was never true.
There can be no doubt that Paul sees "works of the Law" and "under the Law" as categorically bad, yet Paul calls the Law itself "holy, just and good" (Rom 7:12), certainly Paul does not use these phrases to refer to the Law itself.
COMMONLY MISUNDERSTOOD PASSAGES
Several New Testament passages have often been misunderstood as teaching that the Law is not for today. The following are some of the most common: Col 2:14 "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross." (KJV)
This is just a matter of poor translation. When literally translated from the Aramaic of the Peshitta this passage reads: "And he has blotted out, by his commandments, the handwriting of our debts which were against us, and he took it from the midst and fastened it to his beam."
Eph 2:15a "Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances;" (KJV)
Again, this is just a matter of poor translation. When literally translated from the Aramaic of the Peshitta this passage reads: "And the enmity, by his flesh and the law, because of commandments in the commandments. he has abolished."
Romans 10:4 "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth. (KJV)
Again, poor translation is to blame. The word for "end" here is in the Greek text tellos which can mean "end" in the sense of "termination" but can also mean "end" as in "aim" or "goal." The Aramaic word here is saka, which can also mean "aim" or "goal."
The passage is better rendered: "For Messiah is the goal of the law for righteousness to everyone that trusts."
Heb 8-10 Several passages from Hebrews 8 through 10 are also misunderstood as teaching that the law is not for today. We can not deal fully with these here, they are dealt with fully in Semitic Light on Hebrews available from the address shown at the bottom of this article.
WHAT THE SCRIPTURES SAY ABOUT THE LAW
So what's wrong with the Law that G-d would want to destroy it? Despite the fact that David was saved by faith alone (Rom 4:5-8), he loved the Law and delighted in it (Psa 119: 97, 113, 163). Paul (Paul) also delighted in the Law (Rom 7:22) and called it "holy, just and good." (Rom 7:12). There is nothing wrong with the Law that G-d should want to abolish or destroy it, in fact both the Tenach and the New Scriptures call the Law "perfect" (Psa 19:7; James 1:25).
The fact is that G-d did not abolish the Law, quite to the contrary the Law is everlasting. There is no shortage of Tenach passages which tell us that the Law is "everlasting" and "for all generations" (Exo 27:21; 28:43; 29:28; 30:21; 31:17; Lev 6:18, 22; 7:34, 36; 10:9, 15; 17:7; 23:14, 21, 41; 24:3; Num 10:8; 15:15; 18:8, 11, 19, 23; 19:10; Deu 5:29; Psa 119:160) and is not to be changed or taken away from (Deu 4:2; 12:32). The New Scriptures echo this teaching (Mat 5:18; Luke 16:17). The Law is not abolished by Messiah (Mat 5:17 see also b.Shab. 116a) nor by faith (Rom 3:31) but is even called in the New Scriptures "the Law of Messiah" (Gal 6:2).
Now if the Law is good and everlasting then it stands to reason that it should be observed. Paul tells us that we should not use grace as an excuse to sin (Rom 6:1-2, 15) and that the only way to know sin is through the Law (Rom 7:7). Yeshua tells us that if we love him, we will keep his commandments (John 14:15, 21, 23-25; 15:10). The fact that we are saved by faith is all the more reason that we should keep the Law, as the Scriptures tell us:
"...not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us abundantly through Yeshua the Messiah our Savior, that having been justified by his grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to MAINTAIN GOOD WORKS. These things are good and profitable to men." (Titus 3:5-8)
"And by this we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He who says, `I know him,' and does not keep his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps his word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in him ought himself to walk just as he walked. Brothers, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning." (1John 2:3-7) [See also James 2:14-26]
Please do not use the old excuse: "I can't keep the Law anyway so why bother?" Yeshua was tempted in all things just as we are and he did keep the Law (Heb 4:15). The Scriptures are very clear about the invalidity of this excuse:
"For this commandment which I command you this day [The Law (See verses 9-11)], IT IS NOT TOO HARD FOR YOU, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say: 'Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?' Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say: 'Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, and make us hear it, that we may do it?' But the Word is very near to you, in your mouth, and in your heart, THAT YOU MAY DO IT." (Deu 30:11-14)
At this point, you may be feeling very defensive, you may be saying to yourself. "I'm not obligated to the Law, I'm at liberty." Remember, the false teachers will promise "liberty" but turn from the "holy commandment" (2Pet 2:1, 19). There is no conflict between the Law and liberty (Psa 119:44-45) in fact, James calls the Law "the Law of Liberty (James 1:25; 2:12), true liberty does not include a license to sin (Rom 3:8; 6:1-2, 15). You may ask, "Well if we don't keep the Law for salvation, then why do we keep the Law?" First of all, keeping the Law SHOWS our faith (Titus 3:5-8; 1John 2:3-7; James 2:14-26). Secondly, there are rewards for keeping the Law (Titus 3:8). The Psalms tell us that it "restores the soul" (Psa 19:7). Yeshua promises that those who keep the Law and teach others to do so will be called first in the Kingdom of Heaven (Mat 5:19). Additionally, Jews who keep the Mosaic Law are given a long list of other promises (Deu 28).
[Editors Note: For those of you who would like to contact Mr. Trimm, you can write him at: James Trimm, PO Box 471, Hurst TX 76053 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org]
by Mary Alice and James Stillman
Now our weekly toil is ended;
Shades of evening drawing nigh,
Falling like a benediction;
From the alter of the sky,
Bring the Sabbath, blessed Sabbath,
Precious gift from God on high.
Let us lay aside each burden,
Put all thought of care away;
We may claim a Father's blessing,
When His children meet to pray,
On the Sabbath, blessed Sabbath,
Sacred and most holy day.
Father grant us now Thy favor,
Keep us safe throughout the night;
May we feel Thy presence near us,
When we waken with the light,
On the Sabbath, blessed Sabbath,
Day most precious in Thy sight.
Dear sir, please find enclosed a donation for your work. Please forward the following items: The Real 3 Days & 3 Nights; God's Calendar vs Roman-Jewish Calendar; God is Not a Slot Machine; Do You Know the Real Jesus?; Talking With Jesus About the Sabbath; The Simple Truth .Australia
Friends, I would like to request the following tapes: Pentecost--The Wave Sheaf Shadow by C. Kimbrough; Salvation-Justification by C. Kimbrough; Faith in God by M. Carr; Lazarus & the Rich Man by J. Morgan; Lamb's Book of Life by J. MoffisVA
QUESTION & ANSWERS
Q--You make some interesting points in the internet edition.... I am a Sabbath keeper who attends services (not a church organization) yet I follow the Bible and God's words. I did not understand the calendar differences, one of our "leaders" has written on "postponements" and I don't understand who has this authority today. I am muddling along reading various publications and I do not see many going the way of life. There is abundant knowledge, but little revelation in much of it.FL
A-- I think you have answered your own question. There never was, and is not today, authority to add "postponements" to the holy days of God. This is a man made invention that was not done until the third century. Those who follow the postponements are simply preserving "tradition". Mark Carr [ed.]
Q-- Why do you use the Star of David after each article?
A-- The next Jerusalem Sentinel will have an article devoted to answering this important question. In the last few years, many people have been fooled into believing it is pagan symbol. This is not accurate and our article will answer it's origins.
A NEW LOOK AT PENTECOST
by J. D. Moffis
Every year, various articles by different authors about how to count Pentecost appear on the scene. Most of them are very interesting and bring out some thought provoking ideas. Much too often, however, these authors go to sources other than the Bible, the true word of God, for their information. They will quote the Jewish historian Josephus, who was born in 37 A.D. - a self-proclaimed Pharisee, or they will do a study of the Pharisee's versus Sadducee's way to count Pentecost.
If the Bible is the true word of God, why should it even be necessary to turn to external sources for our information? All one needs is the Bible, God's instruction manual for mankind, and a good Bible concordance which gives the meaning of the Bible words in Hebrew and Greek. Christ warns us very clearly in Mat 16:8, to beware (be cautious) of the leaven (teachings) of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
Some might say, "What about Mat 23:2-3, where Christ stated that the scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat; all therefore whatsoever they bid you to observe, that observe and do?" Here again, one must use caution when dealing with not only the Pharisees, but also the scribes, the students and the writers or secretaries. They were often used as teachers of the Law. They had access to the truth, just as all the religious leaders of today have access to the truth, but they did not practice what they wrote and taught. Christ called them "hypocrites". They preferred their own wisdom and ways of doing things over God's way. Notice what the apostle Paul says about the worldly wise in 1 Cor 1:20; "Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer [philosopher] of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" When we go to Josephus, when we go to the Pharisees or when we go to any external source other than God's word in order to gain wisdom, we are treading on thin ice for they may have twisted and perverted God's truth for their own personal glory or gain. There is only one source of truth and that is the Bible. If we read something contrary to God's word, the red flag in our brain should "pop up" and warn us that we are in spiritual danger of being misled.
Yes, the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees all taught that the annual Sabbaths or Feast Days should be observed as well as the weekly Sabbath. Why? Because the Lord, primarily through Moses, commanded their observance. Christ said to observe those things commanded in God's Law but not the way the three groups of religious leaders taught that they should, or should not, be observed. Yet this is what many people do when trying to determine the correct way to count Pentecost.
With this in mind, let's go to the Bible and take another look at how to count Pentecost. Forget the scribes, forget the Pharisees and Sadducees, forget Josephus and just concentrate on God's word, the truth. First, notice in Deu 16:16, that there are three primary feasts, or festivals, that God wants his people to observe; "Three times in a year shall all the males appear before the Lord thy God in the place which He shall choose; in the Feast of Unleavened Bread, in the Feast of Weeks, and in the Feast of Tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the Lord empty." Note that the three festivals are separate and independent of each other. In other words, the Feast of Weeks is not tied in with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, nor is the Feast of Tabernacles tied in with the other two festivals. This is important to remember as we progress into this Bible study.
Let's zero in on the Feast of Weeks, sometimes called the feast of harvest [Exo 23:16], day of firstfruits [Num 28:25] and today called Pentecost. This simply means fifty or fiftieth, since it is the fiftieth day from a certain day that we are to begin counting from. This day has caused a great deal of confusion down through the years. I am sure that some of God's people have been tempted [and I use the word literally], as I have been on occasion, to observe two days of Pentecost...one on the sixth day of the third month of God's holy calendar and the other as determined by counting fifty days beginning with the first Sunday occurring during the Days of Unleavened Bread.
But God is not the author of confusion [I Cor 14:33]. If God is not the author, then who is? James 3:16 states: "For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work." Envy is a characteristic of Satan the devil. He loves to create confusion and doubt and he works through human instruments. The apostle Paul had this to say about false teachers: "If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to Godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is Godliness; from such withdraw thyself." [I Tim 6:3-5].
James tells us that..."The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy." [James 3:17] The "wisdom from above" or the wisdom sent from our Lord via the Holy Spirit will erase all confusion if we diligently seek for the truth through prayer and a search of the scriptures.
So which day is the proper day to begin our count to Pentecost? Notice again in Deu 16:1; the Lord through Moses, is again listing the special days which he wants His people to observe on an annual basis. He starts with the Passover in the month of Abib or the first month of His calendar, then He proceeds into the Days of Unleavened Bread in verses 3-8. Notice that the instructions on how to observe the days of unleavened bread end with verse 8;"Six days thou shalt eat unleavened bread; and on the seventh day shall be a solemn assembly to the Lord thy God; thou shalt do no work therein." Notice there is no mention of a wave offering or a special day to start counting off the fifty days of the Feast of Weeks; this doesn't occur until we get to verse 9, which begins a new festival period; "Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the seven weeks from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn."
So we see that the "count down" to the feast of weeks wasn't to begin until the start of the early corn [grain] harvest. But what about the "wave offering" day which actually started the count? We have to go to Leviticus 23 to get this information. Here again, the Lord, through Moses, is giving His instructions on how to observe His weekly Sabbath and His annual Holy Days. Beginning in verse 4, He states that they are His feasts, "Holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons." In verse 5, He begins with the Passover; in verses 6 and 7, he proclaims the 15th day of the first month as the first day of unleavened bread and in verse 8 He wraps up His discussion about these "unleavened" days proclaiming the 7th day as a holy day.
Here again, there is no mention of a wave offering or the beginning of a "countdown." There were no special instructions given for the 16th of the first month nor for the first day of the week falling during this period of time. These instructions aren't mentioned until the Lord starts discussing with Moses His second festival season for the year. Notice throughout the 23rd chapter of Leviticus, that a new topic or subject starts out with the words "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying...." and then He proceeds to give his instructions concerning that particular festival or event.
With this in mind, let's begin a new set of instructions concerning God's second festival season for the year. This begins with verse 9; "And the Lord spake unto Moses saying, 'speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest; and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it." Now drop down to verses 15 and 16; "And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven Sabbaths shall be complete; even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord."
Here's where all the controversy begins: which Sabbath is the Lord referring to? The word "Sabbath" as it is used in these verses referring to the feast of Firstfruits is #7676 in Strong's Concordance and means; "Intermission, i.e. [spec.] the Sabbath [+ every] Sabbath," The same word is used in verse 3, where the Lord gives instructions for His weekly Sabbath. When he refers to his annual holy days as a Sabbath day, the meaning is #7677; "a sabbatism or special holiday: rest, Sabbath." The Sabbaths mentioned in verses 24 and 32 are such days, i.e. special holy days.
Moses knew which day the Lord was referring to when He said on the "morrow after the Sabbath" the priest was to wave the sheaf of firstfruits, the day after a weekly Sabbath would, of course, be the first day of a new week. Most of us have assumed, down through the years, that this ritual of wave sheaf offering always took place during the festival of unleavened bread which lasts for a period of seven days. The wave offering "kicked off" the countdown for the Festival of weeks regardless of what time the grain ripened. When the Israelite farmer sowed the grain seed weeks earlier, he wasn't necessarily thinking about the exact week the crop would begin to be harvested; he just knew conditions were right for sowing the seed. He also knew that several factors were involved, such as rainfall, temperature conditions of soil at planting time, etc. in determining when the crop would germinate, sprout, mature and finally ripen. He did know however, that on the day when he put the sickle to the grain that he was to take a sheaf of the firstfruit to the priest, who would wait until the day after the Sabbath to wave it before the Lord.
Why wait until the day after the weekly Sabbath? There are two reasons: first, it began the seven week count to the harvest festival; this made it very simple. The Lord said count seven more Sabbaths and on the morrow after the seventh Sabbath the Firstfruit Festival would commence [Lev 23:15-21]. The Lord did not set a definite date for this annual Sabbath because He knew it could vary from year to year depending on the growing season. Today we would call it a "floating holiday" [holy day].
The second reason why the wave sheaf offering did not take place until the morrow after the Sabbath was for our benefit today and for every true believer since the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. A select few in Old Testament days, looking through eyes of faith and guided by the Holy Spirit, could see the purpose for the wave offering being presented on the day after the Sabbath of the week when the early harvest commenced. As far as the average Israelite was concerned, the Lord's annual feast days were only a yearly memorial or reminder of important events that had occurred in the past. Why? Because God said they were [Exo 12:14 and Lev 23:24]. But Col 2:17 tells us that the holy days are a shadow of things to come. They not only looked back in the past but also looked forward to important events which were to occur in the future.
So what important event did the wave sheaf offering foreshadow? [The day of the wave offering was not a commanded assembly but still must be considered as part of the spring harvest festival commanded by the Lord]. In Mat 5:17, Christ stated,"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill." The apostle Paul tells us in I Cor 15:19-20,"If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept [died]." Not only is this important in our study, but James states in James 1:18, "Of His own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures." We, as the begotten children of God, are also considered as firstfruits. In Exo 34:26 we read,"The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the Lord thy God." Christ, after His death, burial and resurrection, became the first of the firstfruits and He ascended up to the house of God [heaven], as that special offering pictured in the Old Testament which started the fifty day countdown to the firstfruits harvest celebration.
And on what day did Christ offer himself? John, chapter 20, makes it very clear; verse 1 tells us it was the first day of the week when Mary Magdalene discovered the empty sepulcher. In verses 15 and 16, Jesus appeared to her and revealed himself. Now notice what He tells her in verse 17;"Jesus saith unto her, `Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God and your God.'" In verse 18, Mary did as she was instructed. Now in verse 19 we read, "Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, the doors were shut and the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them; `Peace be unto you'".
So Christ ascended to his Father after talking with Mary and later on that same day, he appeared to His disciples. The Holy Spirit inspired John to mention not once, but twice, that these events occurred on the first day of the week. This first day of the week fell during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and Christ our "Passover" was sacrificed for us [I Cor 5:7], on the same day that the lambs were killed. It is also very likely that this was the week that the "sickle was put to the grain", and Christ appeared before his heavenly Father just as the wave sheaf was being offered by the temple priest.
Those who teach that the fifty day count begins on the 16th day of the first month completely negate Christ as first of the firstfruits; He is that wave sheaf that was so important in Old Testament times, The wave offering started a process lasting fifty days which culminated with the early harvest festival on the final day. This early harvest pictures the reaping and ultimate salvation of God's firstfruits, the saints. Hebrews 2:10 tells us that Christ is the captain of their salvation. Strong's tells us that the word "captain" in the Greek is #747; " a chief leader". It also refers us to #746 and #756, which both mean "to commence [in order of time]".
When Christ was resurrected from the grave and appeared before his Father as the wavesheaf offering, he set in motion a new creating process. A process which will bring many sons to glory [Heb 2:10]. God's creation was completed in a week, but His spiritual creation will last much longer, symbolized by the product of 7x7 [49 days or 7 weeks]. After the completion of his physical creation, God saw everything that He had made, and "behold, it was very good" [Gen 1:31]. His spiritual creation is going to be even better! The number seven equals complete and total perfection. Many saints are asleep in their graves just waiting to arise in that "better resurrection" [Heb 11:35] when the firstfruits are harvested.
It never ceases to amaze me, that our heavenly Father would set in motion physical examples that would help mankind to better understand his great purpose and plan of salvation. His growing seasons for crops is only one of these comparisons. All farmers know there are two main harvest seasons per year, the spring harvest [firstfruits] and then the great fall harvest which wraps up the growing season for another year. Christ not only became the firstfruits of them that are dead [and those of us now living] when He rose from the dead and ascended to his heavenly Father as the wave offering, but He also established a benchmark or standard for determining the correct day for beginning the countdown to Pentecost. He became the wave offering of the firstfruits on the "morrow after the Sabbath" which occurred during the Days of Unleavened Bread. Thank God, we don't have to use the time of harvest of the early crops as a guide to determine the proper date! Christ has truly fulfilled this important event.
One final point... The feast of firstfruits or Pentecost as it is now commonly called, is still a "floating" holyday just as it was in Old Testament days. It can occur on any day of the month, but that day will always be on a Sunday. Could it be that God ordained this for a special reason? The Israelites of old never knew from one year to the next what date the firstfruits harvest would be held. It all depended on the crops...when they would ripen and mature. Today, we are that crop; is God waiting for us to ripen and mature spiritually? Christ, the Lord of the Old Testament and the one who instructed the children of Israel through His servant, Moses, said in Mark 13:32, concerning His second coming; "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son but the Father".
Our Lord and Savior could not set a special date for the firstfruit harvest celebration in the days of Moses, because He didn't know then and He still doesn't know today when that great event will occur. All He knows is that His Father has given seven weeks [symbolic, of course] for His crop of firstfruits to mature and ripen. Are we delaying that harvest celebration?
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