Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Chapter 1



And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. … Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Genesis 2:3 & Exodus 20:8).


The Sabbath, the original holiday (holy day) –  established by God Himself  –  sets the standard for all other holidays and festivals.   So there is a worthwhile purpose for observing holidays: to honor our Creator God, Who is Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8; Luke 6:5).

Yet there other worthwhile reasons for celebrating the Sabbath and many other holidays and festivals: people are blessed in the process (!), because the Sabbath was made for mankind, not mankind for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27). Accordingly, some holidays and festivals serve as vehicles of God’s blessings (Acts 14:17).  Also, some holidays remind us of God’s providence in history (Esther 9:26-28), just as the heavens document God’s glory for us (Genesis 1:14; Psalm 19).

In addition to the original holy day, the Sabbath, the Old Testament reports a series of seven special “feasts of the LORD” – special holy festivals that the nation of Israel were commanded (in Leviticus chapter 23) by Moses (as God’s prophet) to observe, sequentially, in accordance with the Levitical calendar. [1] These seven holy festivals (which shall be analyzed more particularly later) were decreed by Moses, for Israel’s observance, in this calendar sequence:

(1) Passover, a/k/a Pesach;

(2) Feast of Unleavened Bread;

(3) Feast of Firstfruits;

(4) Feast of Weeks, a/k/a Pentecost;

(5) Feast of Trumpets, a/k/a Rosh Hashanah;

(6) Day of Atonement, a/k/a Yom Kippur; and

(7) Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths), a/k/a Sukkoth.[2]  

Furthermore, the Old Testament supplemented the original Sabbath and those seven holy festivals with a later event that became the reason for memorial celebrations, Purim, the annual remembrance of how God delivered the Jewish people from being slaughtered by Haman’s persecution during the Persian Empire period (Esther 9:17-32, especially Esther 9:18).

In contrast to the celebration of gladness and gratitude during Purim, the Jews later added (perhaps improvidentially) yet another special day of remembrance to their annual calendar, the Ninth of Av (Tisha b’Av), as a memorial of two traffic times in Israel’s national history. Coincidentally (and many would say providentially), the Ninth of Av would serve as a chronological monument for a national tragedy of Old Testament times and again as a national tragedy of New Testament times:

Tisha B’Av commemorates what are generally acknowledged to be the two most tragic events of Jewish history. It was on this day that the Babylonians destroyed Solomon’s Temple in 586 B.C., and on this day in A.D. 70 that the Romans leveled the Second Temple with fire.  Tisha B’Av is therefore set aside as a very somber fast on the Jewish calendar.[3]

Tisha B’Av is referred to by the Old Testament prophet Zechariah when he described the fast of the fifth month as a time of mourning and sorrow (Zechariah 7:3-5 & 8:19).  This sorrow would be increased immeasurably when the Ninth of Av, during AD 70, would see the fulfillment of Christ’s prophecy of doom against apostate Jerusalem, at the hands of Rome’s General Titus (Matthew 23:37-38 & 24”1-2).[4]

During the inter-testamental “silent years” (i.e., the history that occurred between the Old and New Testaments of the Bible), which included the Greek Empire period, the Jews experienced another national crisis, leading to a temporary national deliverance, during winter, involving the Maccabees. That memorable deliverance became known as Hanukkah (meaning “Dedication”).  Hanukkah is alluded to in the New Testament, when it is referred to as “the feast of the dedication” (John 10:22).

But there is more! The bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, after three days of death and burial, changed the world forever.  [For details on the “3 days and 3 nights”, please review the PowerPoint sermon “Timing Christ’s Resurrection:  Hebrews and Romans” , posted at  — recorded by Bayside Community Church in Tampa.]


The first day of the week, Sunday (which is also the “eighth day”, since it is the day that immediately follows the seventh day, Saturday) would never be thought of the same, because it was the first day of the week when the Lord Jesus Christ conquered death, by raising from the dead (see John chapter 20, especially John 20:1, saying “the first day of the week”).

Understandably, it soon became a customary practice of Christian believers to gather together, for Biblical worship and Christian fellowship, on the first day of the week (i.e., on Sunday), as is illustrated by Acts 20:7 and 1st Corinthians 16:2, and is called by the apostle John “the Lord’s day” (Revelation 1:10).  Accordingly Sunday – because of its relevance to the Gospel of the risen Christ (1st Corinthians 15:3-4) – became known as “the Christian Sabbath”.  (Improvidentially, the Creatorship of God, which the original Sabbath sanctified, became discounted in the theological “shuffle”, so much so that God’s Creatorship later became passively ignored and then actively compromised.)

The Holy Bible records other instances of festivals, celebrations, and feasting; however, these ten holidays suffice to show that the idea and the practice of recognizing “holy days” (the literal root of our modern word “holiday”) is well grounded in the sacred Scriptures.

Holidays are special blessings, and they are worth celebrating. But aren’t the Old Testament “feasts of the LORD” part of the Torah, the Mosaic Law?  Also, aren’t Christians under grace and thus “freed” from the Law?  If so, what value do the Old Testament holidays have for Christians today?

Surely the Old Testament holidays have some value to us, because they are part of the Holy Bible, so they are guaranteed to be “profitable” for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness (2nd Timothy 3:16),  —  so how are the Biblical holidays relevant to us today?

The quick answer to that question is “Christian liberty”, as that principle is taught in the apostle Paul’s writings, especially in Romans chapter 14 and Colossians chapter 2, as the following discussion will show.


[1] There are many good books that describe and explain these “feasts of the LORD”. The best one-volume book that I have benefited from, most, is Kevin Howard & Marvin Rosenthal’s The Feasts of the LORD: God’s Prophetic Calendar from Calvary to the Kingdom (Nashville:  Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1997), 224 pages.

[2]See generally Leviticus chapter 23, explained in Kevin Howard & Marvin Rosenthal, The Feasts of the LORD: God’s Prophetic Calendar from Calvary to the Kingdom (Nashville:  Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1997).

[3] Kevin Howard & Marvin Rosenthal, The Feasts of the LORD: God’s Prophetic Calendar from Calvary to the Kingdom (Nashville:  Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1997), page 151.

[4] Dr. Henry Morris points out that this national fast was unbiblical, since the only annual time appointed for Israel’s mourning was Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), according to Leviticus 23:26-32. See Henry M. Morris, editorial footnote to Zechariah 7:5, in The New Defender’s Study Bible (Nashville: World Publishing, 2006), page 1359.


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