On Oct. 22, 1844, Jesus Christ, our High Priest, entered once into the Most Holy Place of the Heavenly Sanctuary. Then began the process of cleansing of the sanctuary, of which every tenth day of every seventh month of every year was a type. The day of atonement was a day of solemnity when all in the camp of Israel were to “afflict [their] souls and do no work at all,” (King James Version, Leviticus 16:29), neither an Israelite nor a sojourner. “For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD” (vs. 30). It was a day when all who were not found afflicting their souls on that day would be separated, or cut off, from among God’s people. This day was also known as “the fast” (Acts 27:9) because it was a day of fasting and prayer in connection with the work of the high priest.
During the last few decades, a movement to promote the moral obligation to keep the feast days recorded in Leviticus has been making inroads among reform-minded Seventh-day Adventists. Why so much emphasis on the feasts in the great antitypical day of the fast? Is this new light that needs to be proclaimed before Jesus can return? Or is it a scheme of the enemy of souls to divert sincere followers of Jesus Christ from the true latter rain message?
HOW SHALL WE KNOW?
When studying either the Scriptures or the Spirit of Prophecy, it is important to allow plain statements to guide our understanding of more difficult passages. Regarding her own writings, Ellen White wrote:
“The testimonies themselves will be the key that will explain the messages given, as scripture is explained by scripture” (1 Selected Messages, 42).
“...the key to the testimonies is the testimonies themselves... (15 Manuscript Releases, 295).
A key is a simple instrument used to unlock a complicated mechanism. In like manner, simple statements, in context, help us to understand or unlock more difficult passages. When one utilizes complex reasoning to explain a simple passage of scripture or testimony, one is missing the key. Here are some simple passages that help us to understand the feast day question.
THE TWO-FOLD SYSTEM OF LAW
Most Adventists agree that the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy present a two-fold system of law: the ceremonial and the moral. What makes up the ceremonial and the moral laws? Consider the following passages from Ellen White:
“There are two distinct laws brought to view. One is the law of types and shadows, which reached to the time of Christ, and ceased when type met antitype in his death. The other is the law of Jehovah, and is as abiding and changeless as his eternal throne. After the crucifixion, it was a denial of Christ for the Jews to continue to offer the burnt offerings and sacrifices which were typical of his death. It was saying to the world that they looked for a Redeemer to come, and had no faith in Him who had given his life for the sins of the world. Hence the ceremonial law ceased to be of force at the death of Christ” (Signs of the Times, July 29, 1886), emphasis mine.
“While the death of Christ, as we have seen, brought the law of types and shadows, or the ceremonial law, to an end, it did not in the least detract from the dignity of the moral law, or make it void. On the contrary, the very fact that Christ died to satisfy the claims of that law, shows the immutability of its character” (Signs of the Times, July 15, 1880).
“The moral law was never a type or a shadow...” (Review and Herald, April 22, 1902)
These passages, and others like them, clearly point out the difference between the two systems of law. A law that is a type or shadow would fall under the ceremonial law, while the moral law was never a type or shadow, but existed from eternity. One is typical; the other is eternal.
FEASTS – MORAL OR CEREMONIAL?
Because the ceremonial law came to an end by the death of Christ, while the moral continues to this day, any moral obligations we have to God are solely those that fall under the moral law. Under which law do the feast days fall?
“The Passover was to be both commemorative and typical, not only pointing back to the deliverance from Egypt, but forward to the greater deliverance which Christ was to accomplish in freeing His people from the bondage of sin. The sacrificial lamb represents ‘the Lamb of God,’ in whom is our only hope of salvation. Says the apostle, ‘Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.’ 1 Corinthians 5:7...” (Patriarchs and Prophets, 277).
“The Feast of Tabernacles was not only commemorative but typical. It not only pointed back to the wilderness sojourn, but, as the feast of harvest, it celebrated the ingathering of the fruits of the earth, and pointed forward to the great day of final ingathering, when the Lord of the harvest shall send forth His reapers to gather the tares together in bundles for the fire, and to gather the wheat into His garner...” (Ibid, 541).
Paul said, “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7). The sheaf of first-fruits, which at the time of the Passover was waved before the Lord, was typical of the resurrection of Christ.
“Christ the first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (1 Corinthians 15:23). Like the wave-sheaf, which was the first ripe grain gathered before the harvest, Christ is the first-fruits of the harvest of redeemed ones when He returns.
Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection, explained in the OT types were fulfilled, not only as to the event, but also as to the time.
“In like manner, the types which relate to the second advent must be fulfilled at the time pointed out in the symbolic service. Under the Mosaic system, the cleansing of the sanctuary, or the great Day of Atonement, occurred on the tenth day of the seventh Jewish month, [Leviticus 16:29-34.] when the high priest, having made an atonement for all Israel, and thus removed their sins from the sanctuary, came forth and blessed the people. So it was believed that Christ, our great High Priest, would appear to purify the earth by the destruction of sin and sinners, and to bless his waiting people with immortality...” (The Great Controversy, 398, 399).
Just as it is clear that there are two systems of law, it is also clear that the feast days fall under the ceremonial law. The moral law, existing from creation, was never a type or shadow. The feasts, on the other hand, were commemorative of events relating to the Hebrew nation and fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Both the ceremonies and the appointed times were typical of the life, death, and high priestly ministry of Jesus. This places the feast days under that law which the death of Christ abolished. This is why the apostle Paul plainly stated,
“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbaths: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17).
Indeed, they “are a shadow of things to come.” They taught and continue to teach us the work of Jesus Christ in the heavenly temple, that temple made without hands, which the Lord built and not man. This our pioneers, including the messenger of the Lord, clearly understood, as evidenced by the following quote from Ellen White:
“One day as Elder Corliss stepped out of a train, the guard [conductor] stopped him with the request that he explain Colossians 2:16. They stopped, and as the crowd rushed by, the explanation was given, and from Leviticus 23:37, 38 it was shown that there were sabbaths besides the Sabbath of the Lord…” (Review and Herald, January 7, 1896)
The explanation given is that these sabbaths are shadows and are not the Sabbath of the Lord. It is only recently that a movement has arisen which seeks to complicate that which the Lord had already made plain.
So, are we feasting or fasting? Do we teach the observance of the shadows that pointed forward to the reality, or do we accept the fact that the reality has come in the person of Jesus Christ? Even now He stands in this great antitypical day of fasting, performing a work that will prepare His people to stand before a holy God without an intercessor and to be translated without seeing death. Afflict your souls, dear brothers and sisters, and prepare to meet your God.