THE OBSERVANCES, HOLY CONVOCATIONS, AND TEMPLE WORSHIP SYSTEM AFTER THE RETURN OF CHRIST

Throughout  the  Bible, there are many prophetic  scriptures which show that the  commanded observances and  holy  convocations will be observed after the  establishment  of  the government of God on earth.

Many people  puzzle over these scriptures, wondering if these scriptures are just analogies or if they contain prophesied that will be fulfilled in  some future  nation of Israel or during this age.

The Facts

There  are a number of helpful facts of which one should be aware before making a study into the worship system that  will  be instituted after Christ returns to rule the earth.

Editors note:

Although the Bible gives few details regarding the temple worship system  and  its  sacrifices and offerings after  the  return  of Christ,  it is not silent when it comes to documenting  the  fact that the laws, precepts, and principles that God has ordained for the  purpose of worshiping him and regulating human behavior will still be in effect during Christ's rule.

Because  very  few details are  given about the  observances,  holy convocations,  and  temple worship system after  the  return  of Christ,  it  seems that this part of Ezekiel's  prophecy  is primarily  given to show the continuity of God's  plan  for  the salvation of humanity after the return of Jesus Christ.

This  lack  of detail also makes it obvious  that  knowing  every detail  of this future worship system is not important  to  one's salvation today. However, this knowledge  will  be important to those who will live under the rule of Christ.

At the appropriate time, God will reveal all  of  the  necessary details concerning  this  future worship system, just as he gave exact instructions to Moses  concerning the worship system to be practiced by national Israel. Therefore, the  following  study and analysis is not meant  to  be a detailed study of the subject. It is meant to be an overview, which will show the continuity and logic behind the continuance  of  the commanded  observances and holy convocations after the return  of Jesus Christ.

With  the  small  amount of background  information  recorded  in Ezekiel,  Zechariah, and elsewhere in the scriptures about  God's future  temple worship system and sacred observances, one can solve some of the mysteries  contained  within  the prophecies concerning the future commanded observances and holy convocations.

EZEKIEL'S PROPHECY

Ezekiel's  prophecy is the  most complete of all the accounts  of the  future  temple  system and has a list  of  the  observances, festivals, and sacrifices that will be practiced.

Ezekiel's   prophecy also shows that the weekly Sabbath  and  the New  Moons will continue to be observed; however, there are  only two annual observances mentioned.  Missing from Ezekiel's list of observances  are  the  Passover that Jesus instituted,  the  commanded assemblies  on the first and last days of Unleavened  Bread,  the Feast of Pentecost, the Feast of Trumpets, The Day of Atonement, and the Festival of the Eighth Day.

Some  assume  that Ezekiel's failure to mention  specific  annual observances  is proof that they will not be observed in  the  future;  however,  this assumption may not be  true.

A NEW PASSOVER FESTIVAL

Ezekiel chapter 45 shows that the  Passover will again be observed  with ritual sacrifices and offerings, but without a  Passover Lamb. This new Passover is different from the original Passover in Egypt, the Passover of national Israel, and the  Passover that Jesus instructed his followers to observe.

While researching  this future Passover, there are two things to  keep in mind:

1. Israel and the Jews (the House Israel and Judah) will have been gathered out of the nations of the world and established as a single nation again.

2. The  system of offerings and sacrifices that are to  be  performed  on this future Passover have never been required  to  be performed in this fashion on any prior Passover.

The Bread and Wine

One thing that is  conspicuously missing from Ezekiel's  prophecy is  any reference to the broken bread and wine that are  symbolic of Christ's body and blood. Because there is no mention of anything pertaining to the Passover that Jesus instituted, the obvious question is:  Why is something this important not mentioned as  being  observed?

In Paul's admonition to the elect at Corinth, he was inspired  to foretell  that the  Passover rituals of the Passover  that  Jesus had instituted would be discontinued after the return of Christ:

"For I have received of the Lord  that which also I delivered  to you,  That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had  given thanks, he broke it, and said, Take, eat:  this is my body, which is broken for you:  this do in remembrance  of me. After the same manner also he took  the  cup, when  he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in  my blood:  this do you, as often as you drink it, in remembrance  of me" (1.Cor.11:23-25 KJV).

"For as often as you may eat this bread, and drink this cup,  you solemnly  proclaim  the death of the Lord until  he  shall  come"  (1.Cor.11:26 Para.).

Here,  Paul  reminds the Corinthians that he has taught  them  to observe  the  Passover and that they are to perform it  with  the rituals  of  the bread and wine as a remembrance of  Christ.  The necessity to do these things as a remembrance of Christ  is  the first clue in solving the mystery of why these rituals are not necessary after his return. The following are reasons why the symbolism of the bread and the wine will no longer be necessary after Christ's return:

The symbols of the bread and wine appear  only to  be  necessary  for the elect of God who are called to participate in the first resurrection, because  they are the only ones who need this reminder.

A Change in Observance

It  is important to understand that  certain aspects of the  worship  system that God gave to ancient Israel cease  to  be necessary or practiced or are changed due to certain circumstances such as the following:

Under  the agreement that was established in 30 A.D. between  God the  Father and his elect children, there are  certain  prophetic and   symbolic aspects and practices of his worship  system that only concern  and have meaning for them. After  Christ  returns, many  of today's practices will no longer be  necessary,  because the prophetic or symbolic reason for them will have been  totally fulfilled.

The Passover Feast

"In the first month in the 14th day of the month, you shall have the Passover, a feast of seven days; unleavened bread  shall be eaten" (Ezk.45:21 Para.).

The  English  word  'feast' in verse 21 is  translated  from  the Hebrew word 'hag', which has the basic meaning of keeping a  feast  or celebrating a holiday. The word 'hag' is usually associated  with the mandatory observance of the three festival seasons in  which God required all of the males of Israel to appear before him.

The  first thing we notice about this future Passover is that  it is a mandatory festival, which must be observed for seven days.

The  original  Passover was a ceremony with a series  of  rituals that spanned portions of two days and it began with the selection of the sacrificial lamb on the 10th day of the first month. This lamb was  then sacrificed before sunset, at the end of the  14th day, and the ceremonial meal and sacrificial lamb were eaten after sunset during the beginning of the first day of Unleavened Bread—the 15th day.

The original Passover was a memorial of Israel's leaving Egypt  (symbolic of leaving sin); therefore, it was not observed in a festive way like the other annual festivals.  The New Testament Passover is a memorial of the death of Jesus Christ for the redemption of humanity.

This future Passover will be a true festival of rejoicing, as indicated by the Hebrew word 'hag,' (i.e., festival). This festival  will begin on the 14th  day of the month, last for seven days, and  end on the 20th day of the month, whereas the Festival of Unleavened Bread, including the meal portion of the Passover ceremony, always began on the evening of the 15th , lasted seven days, and ended on the 21st of the month.

A Passover for a Different People

The  new  Passover that will be observed during Christ's rule  will  be  a  reminder to physical humanity of the  meanings  and fulfillment  of past Passovers, which culminated in the  redemption and justification of humanity. Moreover, it will be  a  reminder, through the eating of unleavened bread, that the  perfecting of  a sinless nature is still required in order to obtain eternal  life in the Kingdom of God.

There are three categories of people who will observe this future Passover:

1. Those who live through the time of trouble at the end of  this age and into the reign of Christ on earth.

2. Those who are born to those living during the reign of  Jesus Christ.

3. The resurrected dead of all ages who never had an opportunity for salvation during their lifetime.

These  billions of people will  observe  the  new Passover under the government of God, while being taught the  lessons of Passovers past and present.

THE DAYS OF UNLEAVENED BREAD

"In the first month in the fourteenth day of the month, you shall have the Passover, a feast of seven days; unleavened bread  shall be eaten" (Ezk.45:21 Para.).

Although unleavened bread is eaten during this seven day Passover feast, this festival is not the Feast of Unleavened Bread; it  is a seven-day Feast of Passover.

It seems that the  Feast of Unleavened Bread will no  longer be necessary after the return of Christ for the following reasons:

Note:  

Ezekiel also records that there will be animal  sacrifices during  the  Feast  of Passover and the Feast of  Shelters.  The reason for these sacrifices is explained in our study about the sacrificial system after Christ's return.

THE FEAST OF WEEKS (PENTECOST)

Originally  the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) celebrated  the  first fruits  of the summer wheat harvest. At this festival, two  leavened  loaves of bread made from the wheat harvest were  presented to God for his acceptance. These loaves were symbolic of all  the elect  of  God called to salvation from Adam to Christ  and  from Christ to the first resurrection.

If  this  festival is no longer observed,  the reason for it being discontinued must be that  all of its symbolic and prophetic meanings and the events that it pictures will have been fulfilled  prior to Christ's return. See our study about the Feast of Weeks and Pentecost.

THE FEAST OF TRUMPETS

The  Feast of Trumpets is prophetic of the  return of  Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords. Therefore, it  may no longer be observed after the return of Christ, because he will have returned and the elect of God will be ruling with him.

The  Feast of Trumpet's prophetic and symbolic meaning  primarily points to events that surround the end of this age of human rule, the  first  resurrection, and the beginning of Christ's  rule  as King of kings and Lord of lords.

Although  humanity benefits from the fulfillment of the  symbolic and prophetic meanings of this festival, once Jesus returns,  the lessons of this feast will be history and will have no future fulfillment. However, the blowing of trumpets may still be a significant  part  of the commanded observances, just as  it  was under God's first agreement with national Israel.

THE DAY OF ATONEMENT

The  Day of Atonement is celebrated by the children of God  as  a day of thanksgiving, because they have been purified from all sin through the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ and are  reconciled to God the Father through this same blood.

Because  the means by which reconciliation is made between God  and man  has already been established through the sacrifice of  Jesus Christ, and because those who participate in the first resurrection  will be the examples of this eternal reconciliation,  there will probably no longer be a need to celebrate this festival  in anticipation  of its fulfillment. However, Ezekiel 45:18-24 seems to indicate that the annual purification of the temple may be transferred to the first day of the first month in preparation for the Passover festival. There also exists the possibility that the Day of Atonement may continue to  be celebrated  as  a  reminder and an announcement of  the  Year  of Liberty, as it was in ancient Israel.

The Year of Liberty

Although  The Day of Atonement is not mentioned  specifically  by name  as being observed after the return of Christ, Ezekiel  does mention the year of liberty:

"So says the Lord God; If the prince gives to sons of his inheritance, it shall be to his sons; it is their possession by inheritance. But if he gives it as a gift of his inheritance to one  of his servants,  then it shall be his until the year  of  liberty; then  it shall return to the prince. His inheritance is only his sons; it shall be theirs" (Ezk.46:16-18 Para.).

This reference to the year of liberty is important  because it was on the Day of Atonement (every seventh year on the Day of Atonement)  that   the year of release  was announced  and  on  every forty-ninth Day of Atonement (forty-ninth year) that the Year  of Jubilee (i.e., year of liberty) was announced .

During the year of Jubilee/Liberty all debts were to be released,  indentured  or purchased servants were to be released from their  debt and  servitude,  and all lands were to be  returned  to  their rightful owners:

"And you shall number seven Sabbaths of years to you, seven times seven years; and the space of seven Sabbaths of years shall be to you forty and nine years. Then shall you cause the trumpet of the jubilee  to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month,  in  the Day  of Atonement shall you make the trumpet to sound  throughout your land. And  you  shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim  liberty throughout all the land to the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee  to you; and you shall return every man  his  possession, and you shall return every man to his family" (Lev.25:8-10 Para.).

Because  the  Year of Jubilee/Liberty is noted and the  announcement of its beginning was made on the Day of Atonement,  it seems  logical that observance of this  festival  may  also continue after the return of Christ and the establishment of  the temple system of worship.

Future Fast Days

"And the word of the Lord of hosts came to me, saying, Thus says the Lord of hosts; The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace."

Although the House of Judah historically observed a fast on the 18th of Tamuz, the 10th of Ab, the 10 of Tishri, the 10th of Tebeth, and the 13th of Adar, none of these fast days, except the Day of Atonement (10th of Tishri), are a part of the observances commanded by God under the first agreement with national Israel. Therefore, this prophecy must be meant for sometime after the return of Jesus Christ. The prophecy does not explain why these "cheerful" days are required; it just says that the House of Judah will observe them.

Ancient Israel

The  primary  reason for the day of Atonement  under  the  temple system  of  worship was to  purge the nation of  Israel  and  the temple  from  all physical defilement  and the  people  from  all spiritual and moral  sin. This was done so that God could continue to  dwell  among them,  and they could continue to have formal access to  him  and communicate with him in the temple.

Although the purging away of physical defilement and  moral/spiritual  sin was a continual process throughout the year, under  the sacrificial system of worship, it was still necessary to perform a major cleansing once a year to expiate sins that were  committed in ignorance.

Because  Ezekiel's  prophecy clearly shows blood  sacrifices  being offered  for  purification, perhaps a yearly  cleansing  of  the future temple will also be necessary.

THE FEAST OF THE SEVENTH MONTH

"In  the seventh month, in the fifteenth day of the  month  shall you do likewise in the feast of the seven days, according to  the sin  offering, according to the burnt offering, and according to the oil" (Ezk.45:25 KJV).

Here,  Ezekiel  records that there will be a  seven  day  festival beginning on the fifteenth day of the seventh month. Additionally, he notes that there will be  sacrifices similar to those  that will be   made during the  Passover Feast.

Ezekiel only briefly mentions this festival, but Zechariah was  inspired to note a number of things that show the  importance of this  festival of the seventh month.

Zechariah 14:16-21 Paraphrased

"Then  the  survivors  from all the nations  that  have  attacked Jerusalem  will  go up year after year to worship the  King,  the Lord of Hosts, to celebrate the Feast of Shelters  (Hag Sukkot)" (v16).

This clearly says that  the Feast of Shelters   will be  observed  by  all nations after Christ returns  to rule  the earth.   It is interesting to note that Zechariah identifies  the feast  as the Feast of Shelters and does not mention  its  second title—the Feast of Ingathering:

"If  any  of the peoples of earth do not go up  to  Jerusalem  to worship  the King, the Lord of Hosts, they will have no rain.  If the Egyptian people do not go up and take part, they will have no rain. The Lord will bring upon them the plague he inflicts  upon the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of  Shelters (Hag  Sukkot). This will be the punishment of Egypt and the  punishment  of all the nations that do not go up to  celebrate  the Feast  of Shelters  (Hag Sukkot)"  (vs.17-19). See  also Ezk.45:25.

It  is  evident from Zechariah's prophecy that,  even  after  the Kingdom  of  God is established on earth,  God  will  still allow  free moral agency among humans. However, if people continue to disobey God after they are informed of what he expects of them in relation to his system of worship, they will be punished until they understand that God is serious about obedience to  him and his laws:

"In  that day there shall be upon the bells of the horses,  HOLINESS  TO  THE LORD; and the pots in the Lord's house  shall  be like  the bowls before the altar. Yes every pot in Jerusalem and in  Judah shall be holiness to the Lord of hosts: and all  they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and boil therein: and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house  of the Lord of hosts" (vs.20-21 KJV).

Zechariah  clearly shows that there will be a fall festival  held in  Jerusalem  in the same time period as the original  Feast  of Shelters/Ingathering. Although Zechariah only refers to this future festival  of the seventh month as the Feast of Shelters, we  should  not assume that it will not also  be the Feast of Ingathering,  because  this feast of the seventh month will be observed during an age of the greatest harvest of humanity into the Kingdom of God.

Those  who  live during this future time, will be a part  of  the prophetic fall harvest of humanity into the Kingdom of God  and they will  be  looking  forward to the fulfillment  of  the  prophetic meaning of the Feast of Shelters.

THE FEAST OF THE EIGHTH DAY

The  Feast of the Eighth Day, which occurs after the Feast  of the seventh month (i.e., the Feast of Shelters/Ingathering), is  also left out of Ezekiel's list of festivals to be observed.

Perhaps, this feast is left out of Ezekiel's list because it has to do with the elect of God who participate in the first resurrection and become a kingdom of kings and priests forever. Because the Feast of the Eighth Day pictures a new beginning after a new earth has been is established and God the Father comes to earth, it is possible that out of all of humanity only those who participate in the first resurrection will be directly involved in implementing the next phase of God's plan for his new creation. If so, this would explain why no further formal observance of the Eighth Day would be required after Christ's return. There is also the possibility that this  feast  may continue to be observed after the return of Christ  for  the following reasons:

1. The Feast of Shelters/Ingathering is prophetic of dwelling in the protective care and presence  of God the Father forever, and the end of the greatest harvest of humanity into the Kingdom of God; therefore, the Eighth Day may be observed, although it is not mentioned by Ezekiel.

2. One of the meanings of the Feast of the Eighth Day is that  of a  new beginning and it points prophetically to God  the  Father coming  to earth to receive his kingdom from Jesus  Christ.  The Feast of the Eighth Day  also points to the beginning of the  next  phase  of God's plan  for  his family after all of humanity   has  had  an opportunity for salvation. Because these events will only occur after the prophetic fulfillment of the  Feast of Shelters/Ingathering,  the Feast of the Eighth day may be observed after the return of Christ.

SUMMARY

Different Festivals for a Different People

With the return of Christ and the establishment of the government of  God on earth, much of the literal, prophetic,  and  symbolic meanings of the commanded observances and holy convocations will have  been  fulfilled; therefore, the observance of some of these  observances  and their  rituals will be unnecessary, while the observance of others in a different manner, will be  necessary.

The  scriptures we have reviewed clearly indicate that  some  observances  and festivals will continue to be observed as  a   reminder and lesson of what was done for the Israelites in bringing them out of Egypt and what Jesus did for humanity in sacrificing his  life so that those who repent and follow God's way will   be spared from eternal death.

By B. L. Cocherell, file b5w77