Free Bible Study Guides

Series 4 - God's Plan for You and the Entire World: Unlocking the Secrets of God's Festivals

Hi, friends! Welcome to this last lesson in the series about God's festivals and their meaning for Christians today. This lesson will give you practical answers about how to celebrate these festivals in the modern world. As we have seen, these celebrations have deep meaning, and rehearsing them each year can help solidify our understanding and inspire us to focus on God's great purpose in our lives.

May God bless and inspire you through your study of His Bible. If you have any questions, please let us know. We would love to hear from you and serve you in any way we can.

Lesson 10: How to Celebrate God's Festivals Today

God didn't intend for people to just learn about His Sabbaths and festivals and their meanings. He wants us to celebrate them, worshipping Him and fellowshipping with other believers when we can.

How to Celebrate God's Festival TodayHere are excerpts from a fascinating paper an 11-year-old girl wrote for school about celebrating God's festivals:

"We do celebrate Holy Days from the Bible. These Holy Days were given to God's people in the Old Testament and were kept by Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament. I love God's Holy Days because they teach me to remember things that God has done for His people in the past and His plan for saving all mankind in the future.

"I want to tell you about the festivals that are in the Bible and what they mean to me.

"Passover: We remember God's angel passing over the houses of His people and sparing their firstborn sons in Egypt. We also learn that the first step in God's plan to save us is for us to accept Christ's death as a Passover sacrifice for us and be baptized.

"First and Last Day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread: We remember God rescuing His people from slavery in Egypt and that they had to eat unleavened bread. Unleavened bread has no yeast to puff it up, so it is flat.

"We also learn that the next step in God's plan is to try to take the sin out of our lives. Sin is like leavening, it puffs us up and makes us proud. God wants us humble, like the flat bread. During this week we eat unleavened bread and take all of the puffy bread out of our house to remind us to clean the sin out of our lives.

"The Day of Pentecost (also called the Feast of the Firstfruits): We remember that Jesus started His small Church with His apostles and gave them the Holy Spirit as a comforter while He is gone.

"We also learn that the next step is that we can be one of God's firstfruits in His harvest when He returns.

"The Feast of Trumpets: We learn that this day is the day Christ returns to rule the earth and set up His Kingdom. It will not be a secret when He comes, because angels will blow trumpets so loud that the whole world will know.

"The Day of Atonement: We learn that when Christ returns, Satan will be put away for a while and we will finally be at one with God without the devil causing trouble. Atonement kind of means 'at-one-ment.' On this day God tells us to fast for 24 hours, from sundown to sundown. Fasting means we don't eat or drink anything, not even water. This teaches us that if we do not become at one with God, we have no hope and will die.

"The Feast of Tabernacles (Feast of Booths): We learn that next is 1,000 years of peace in God's Kingdom here on earth. God will rebuild the earth and Jerusalem will be the capital. King David will rule under God. All people will be taught to obey God's laws and keep these Feasts every year. The Bible even says that people who won't keep the Feasts will have no rain for their crops until they obey.

"The Feast of Tabernacles is my favorite festival. We must leave our house and live in temporary houses and live like God's Kingdom was already here for a whole week. We go to really cool places and do lots of fun things as a family. We also go to church every day for two hours—some days twice!

"The Last Great Day: We learn that when the 1,000 years is over, God will resurrect all the people that ever lived and died but were not part of His Church. Billions of people will be brought back to life and put back together as skin and bones and given a chance to learn His laws and His way of life. God loves all His children and hopes that 'not one should perish.' Everyone gets a chance to be in God's family and live forever as a spirit being like God. This will be the GREATEST DAY EVER, because all friends and families will be together again and know God.

"I hope you enjoyed learning about these Holy Days and why I keep them" (from "Why I Celebrate God's Biblical Holy Days Instead of Holidays").

Share Your Story


What Does the Bible Say About Celebrating the Sabbath and Festivals?

As we have seen in the last nine lessons, the weekly Sabbath and seven annual festivals were taught and celebrated throughout the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. They are called "feasts of the Lord" (Leviticus 23:2). As we saw in Lesson 2, the Hebrew word translated "feasts" is mo'edim, which means "appointed times" or "appointments." God has set up these appointments with us! They are also called "holy convocations" or "sacred assemblies" (New International Version).

We can learn valuable lessons by meeting, fellowshipping and singing together on these feasts.

What are some of the reasons God wants us to meet together?

Hebrews 10:24-25
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

As the world around us worsens, we desperately need to encourage and be accountable to other like-minded Christians. Considering others' needs and helping them ends up helping us. But if we don't make the extra effort to attend church services when we can, we will begin to drift away from God and to lose our motivation.

What is fellowship, and how does it help us grow to be more like the Father and Jesus Christ?

1 John 1:3
That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

God calls people into His Church to be brothers and sisters in a close and growing relationship. The Greek word koinonia, most frequently translated "fellowship," describes this relationship of communication, sharing and caring. Fellowship is an important way of obeying Christ's commandment to love one another. Fellowship is also a way of bearing each other's burdens and growing and working together to become more like Christ (John 13:34; Galatians 6:2; Ephesians 4:15-16).

What part does singing play in our worship of God?

Colossians 3:14-16
But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Music allows us to praise and worship God and to encourage and strengthen each other. Words set to music can make them even more memorable, and in combination with beautiful musical arrangements can be very inspiring.


What Can Christians Learn From the Old Testament Sacrifices?

All of the festivals revealed to ancient Israel included ritual sacrifices (Numbers 28-29). These are not part of the modern observance, but they do teach us lessons.

What did the sacrifices represent?

Hebrews 9:22-24
And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.
Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.
For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us...

The physical tabernacle and temple were "copies" of the spiritual reality, and the animal sacrifices were intended to help us understand the seriousness of sin and the "better" sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.

So our need to have our sins paid for by Jesus' sacrifice was portrayed symbolically through the ritual sacrifices of the Old Testament, including those offered at the festivals. Christians today remember Christ's sacrifice and His central role in the meaning of all the festivals. Jesus Christ is the key to understanding God's entire plan of salvation.

How Should a Christian Today Celebrate the Annual Festivals?

Most Christians today don't observe the seven festivals God calls "My feasts" (Leviticus 23:2). Here is information from our Frequently Asked Question about how the United Church of God celebrates these meaningful festivals today.

The Bible lists seven festivals to be celebrated each year (Leviticus 23), and the New Testament shows many examples of Jesus, His apostles and the Church of God celebrating them. The first, the Passover, is a memorial of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins. This is also when we renew our agreement to come under the blood of Jesus Christ, the perfect Passover Lamb, for the forgiveness of our sins. We approach this period of the year with deep spiritual introspection. We commemorate the Passover on the 14th day of the first month of the sacred year with a service based on the instructions of 1 Corinthians 11:23-28 and the Gospel accounts of the New Testament Passover that Christ instituted.

This solemn service begins with a brief explanation of its purpose, followed by foot-washing (based on Christ's example and instructions in John 13). Then the minister gives an explanation of the symbols of the Passover—unleavened bread and wine—which represent the body and blood of our Savior, respectively. Each baptized member of the Church eats a small piece of the unleavened bread and drinks a small glass of the wine (Mark 14:22-24). Passover is the only festival that does not also include a Holy Day (annual Sabbath).

The Feast of Unleavened Bread is symbolic of the Christian's responsibility to strive to live a sin-free life. We prepare for the Feast of Unleavened Bread by removing leaven and leavened products (bread or other baked items that are made with yeast, baking powder, baking soda or potassium bicarbonate) from our homes (Exodus 12:18-19). We also do not eat bread products made with leaven during the seven days of the Unleavened Bread festival in keeping with God's instructions. Two of the most common commercial unleavened breads are Ry-Krisp and matzos. (Not all matzos are free of leaven, however, so one has to read the labels.)

This festival begins and ends with an annual Holy Day on which church services are held similar to the kind of services we hold on every weekly Sabbath. However, on each of the annual Holy Days, the messages focus on various aspects of the meaning of the day we are observing.

In the United Church of God, the meetings begin with congregational singing, followed by a prayer. After that, an elder or someone designated by the pastor gives a 10- to 12-minute message. This is followed by announcements and the collection of an offering (in accordance with Deuteronomy 16:16-17). (Offerings are not collected on the weekly Sabbath, because there are no instructions or examples of this in the Bible.) More congregational singing may follow, or a choir or musicians may present special music.

The main message lasts approximately one hour and is usually given by the pastor or an elder that he designates. Occasionally, we will use alternative formats, such as having two messages of equal length (around 40 minutes each), between which we have the announcement segment and congregational singing or special music. All of the messages provide guidance, encouragement and education to the membership, as well as help us worship God. The service ends with a final congregational hymn and a closing prayer.

The next two Holy Days are Pentecost (reminding us of the giving of the Holy Spirit and the founding of the Church of God) and the Feast of Trumpets (picturing the return of Jesus Christ). All Holy Days are "high day" annual Sabbaths, so Christians do not perform their regular work on them, resting in the same way that they do on every weekly Sabbath.

The Day of Atonement has a unique aspect to it, in that God instructs us to "fast," or to go without food and drink. "Afflicted in soul" (Leviticus 23:29) is explained in Vine's Expository Dictionary as meaning to humble oneself through fasting.

Most of the Holy Days are observed in local congregations, with the exception of the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day. Church members and their families gather in centralized locations for that entire eight-day festival season. We observe this main festival season of the year with daily church services, including those days that are not annual or weekly Sabbaths. This festival is also a time of great spiritual and physical enjoyment and includes programs for families, seniors, teens and young adults.


Apply Now

Take time now to look at the dates for each of these festivals in the coming year and record them on your calendar (or enter them into your electronic calendar program). As you review the meanings of these festivals and the inspiration they bring, make a plan for celebrating them in the year ahead. If you have more questions about celebrating the Sabbath and festivals, feel free to contact our pastor who serves your area or to write to our Personal Correspondence team at We will be happy to serve you in any way we can.

Next Lesson: Congratulations! You have now completed Series 4, "God's Plan for You and the Entire World." You can now advance to Series 5, "What God Wants for You." [coming soon]

Questions about this lesson? Feedback about this lesson?

Related Resources:

God's Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind

How should a Christian today celebrate the annual festivals observed by Jesus Christ and the apostles?

Dates for the Annual Festivals of God This Year

God's Sabbath in Today's World

Sunset to Sunset: God's Sabbath Rest

The Festivals of God

How can I find the true Church of God?

The Church Jesus Built

This Is the United Church of God