Keeping the Lord’s Day Sacred
The Lord’s Day is the single most sacred day in a Christian’s life.
Anyone professing Christ that has no sense of this special and exciting part of this new life has missed a central part of living for Jesus Christ. Three things control the discipline of caring the cross of Christ as He commanded. He pointedly said, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mark 8:34b)
We fall in love with prayer. Talking to Him is the basis of our new fellowship with Him. Secondly we feed on the Word of God. He said, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:” (I Peter 2:2) The Bible is the believers road map and spiritual food. The third discipline is found in faithful and joyous attendance in the House of God. The very day of Pentecost the Spirit “added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:47b) Three simple things rightly obeyed will guarantee a happy Christian life.
If the devil hates anything in the Christian world, he hates a Bible centered church. Never has the church suffered so many false examples of what a church was meant to be. Because of all the confusion the “Bible Centered Church” is under great attack. The multitudes no longer feel the absolute central purpose of God’s House. If you have no church home where you dedicate the “Lord’s Day” you are going to dry up spiritually and fall away. Remember the words, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25) Note the last words because the Holy Spirit knew this would characterize the “Last Days.” Let’s see how the Holy Spirit has declared this wonderful fact of the special and sacred “Lord’s Day.
Everything concealed in the first four feasts of Israel has been revealed in the gospels of Jesus Christ and other Second Testament books. The first feast was the “Feast of Passover” and is now manifest to us in the finished work of the cross. The second feast was the “Feast of Unleavened Bread” and we experience this revelation every time we feed on the Word of God and receive communion at the Lord’s Table. The third feast, which is the subject of this article, was the “Feast of Firstfruits.” It found perfection or completion in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and our new life resulting from that resurrection. The fourth is the “Feast of Weeks” or “Pentecost” and it is being fulfilled in the church, the body of Jesus Christ.
The Feast of Firstfruits
First, let’s look at the actual event as experienced in the First Testament. This feast called Firstfruits, unlike the first two which were celebrated beginning in Egypt on the Passover night and continuing for seven days after the Passover as they left Egypt, could not be kept until they entered the Promise Land. This third feast was to be celebrated after the first harvest in their new home. It was a “feast of new beginnings.”
The Scripture text says, “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. And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the LORD. And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the LORD for a sweet savour: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin. And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.” (Leviticus 23:9-14)
Let’s make sure we understand the harmony of these first three feasts. The Feast of Passover was to be observed on Nisan 14th, which often varies as to the day of the week. The next day after the Feast of Passover began the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It lasted for seven days with the first and seventh day of the seven being special Sabbaths. Within those seven days came a regular Sabbath. On the next day after the regular Sabbath was the Feast of Firstfruits. This feast was always celebrated on the 8th day or the next day following the Sabbath (7th day). Coming in the Spring of the year (March/April) as these feasts did and still do, this included a rejoicing of the firstfruits of their fields as God had blessed them. Remember that these feasts were not just for Israel, but were a rehearsal of the prophetic future in the Messiah’s life and kingdom. God was establishing in this feast event the day of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
So often the church world and present day believers pay no attention to the First Testament truths. Paul said, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) Paul addressed the Colossian church concerning this important matter. They were busy condemning those who did not keep these past feast days in the ritualistic celebrations. Paul said to them, “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 sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17) In other words the feasts were a shadow, but now we have the real experience in Christ, which the shadow foretold. We are privileged to live in the fulfillment of these exciting prophecies. Let’s not take them lightly.
Noah and the “New Beginning”
Throughout Scripture God is constantly establishing the whole truth of this infallible book. When men became wicked beyond God’s threshold of mercy, judgment was executed. One man found grace in the eyes of the Lord and God spoke for him to build an ark. He labored tirelessly until he and his family were called into the ark. God then shut the door. (Genesis 7:16).
The flood covered the earth, judgment touched the very structure of this created planet, everything was affected. But, God the Father is best understood for His holiness. His holiness is just, pure, and impartial. When His wrath was satisfied, He remembered His servant and his family in the ark. The rain ceased and the earth became calm again. The Scripture stated, “And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.” (Genesis 8:4)
It was God’s time for a New Beginning. When did this New Beginning occur? On the very day hundreds of years in advance that Israel would celebrate the Feast of Firstfruits in the Promise Land and the very day that Jesus would step out of the tomb in resurrected life.
Moses and the Crossing of the Red Sea
The Israelites, under Moses’ leadership, kept the Passover feast on the 14th of Nisan in the evening. On the morning of the 14th they were thrust out of Egypt and started their journey toward the Land of Promise. The people of Egypt loaded them down with gold, silver and the riches of this wealthy nation. The wealth made off the backs of these Israelite slaves was now given to them just to get them to leave. On the 15th they began the seven day celebration of the second feast named Feast of Unleavened Bread. Also, they were rushing to leave Egypt; but, obedience to this command would have been paramount. They traveled the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth day of Nisan to reach the proper place chosen by God for crossing the Red Sea. This was the afternoon of their regular Sabbath. They then realized that the armies of Egypt were approaching from the rear. They were terrified, but God came between the two great companies as a cloud by the day and a pillar of fire by night. God spoke to Moses, “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.”
On the morning of Nisan 17, the same day the ark came to rest and a New Beginning started for Noah and his family, Israel awoke to the Red Sea standing on edge. They marched at God’s command right through the midst of the sea into their New Beginning on the other shore. It was as though they had been resurrected out of bondage on the very day they would celebrate the Feast of Firstfruits once they reached their new home. God was acting in the perfect order of His sovereign control over every detail of His cosmos. Nothing ever happens by chance, fate, or luck. Those words are not part of God’s vocabulary.
Celebrating the Feast of Firstfruits
The primary word in this third feast is the word Firstfruits. The attention is immediately focused on the harvest and the first gathering of the ripe fruit, grain or other blessings from the fields. Throughout Scripture the field is a type of the world in the sense of God’s creation, so this is certainly embodied in this celebration. While they were celebrating the simple harvest as a blessing of God’s promises, they were rehearsing the future spiritual harvest which was prophetically set in the Father’s heart. This would all be fulfilled in the fullness of time.
The first act on this special occasion was the presentation of a sheaf of barley. Apparently, this was offered as a large bundle bound together so it could be waved before the Lord. It was the first of the ripe grain and nothing could be ground and eaten, no freshly baked bread, until this was brought to their God as a praise offering to Him. It included a meat offering mixed with two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil. This was offered by fire as a sweet savor unto the Lord. One additional element was a fourth part of a hin of wine; fresh vintage from the grape.
The Lord’s Supper, as we now celebrate his death, is prophetically evident in this feast. The two basic elements were bread — both before it was ground and after it was ground — and wine. Please note the picture here of the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ, before He was broken and after He was broken. Also, the fruit of the vine was offered, even as we drink, to show His death until He comes. Offered with these elements was a he lamb without blemish of the first year (under twelve months of age). This was to be slain and offered as a burnt offering unto the Lord. This clearly placed the death of Christ already seen in the Feast of Passover as the center of this act of worship and consecration before God. The Feast of Firstfruits would be impossible without the Feast of Passover.
Please remember that this feast always occurs in the process of the second feast, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is a feast of consecration and remembrance. When you see the first three feasts together, you have the entire finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross and in the resurrection. Nothing is lacking for a man’s redemption from sin and his victory over sinful flesh. Remember the words of Jesus to the unbelieving Jews were, “Search the scriptures (The First Testament was those Scripture to which He referred.); for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39)These feasts of Israel become totally meaningless until you view the supernatural picture of redemption in Jesus Christ.
The Feast of Pentecost
The Feast of Pentecost also occurs on Sunday or the first day of the week. Now we have a picture of the “New Beginning” as Noah’s ark came to rest on Mount Ararat reaching all the way to the outpouring of the Holy Ghost in Acts, chapter two. This feast called “the Fiftieth” came 50 days after the Feast of Firstfruits. Counting from the 8th day, Nisan 17, or our Lord’s Day, the day of Christ’s resurrection, and going forward seven weeks (49 days), Pentecost was the next day or the eighth Lord’s Day. The church was established on this day, on this eighth Lord’s Day, seven weeks after His resurrection. In reality we have a combination of two eighths coming together on the Day of Pentecost (Biblical number for “New Beginning”). A New Beginning is certainly what Pentecost represented.
The Lord’s Day
After the disciples of Jesus Christ were convinced of His resurrection, they presented themselves in a fresh devotion to Him. For 40 days He was seen of them and the power of His resurrected life saturated their lives. After 10 more days, they were baptized in the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday and exploded out of the Upper Room. As long as they were allowed, they continued to share the synagogue on the Sabbath, but also met together on the first day of the week to worship Jesus Christ.
The first appearance that Jesus made to His disciples was on the “first day of the week” as clearly stated by Scripture. “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and smith unto them, Peace be unto you.” (John 20:19)
This was the same day as His resurrection. The Scripture shows this to have been a time of great joy, worship, and incredible instruction. It was not a casual occasion as clearly shown in the text. “And when he had so said, he showed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace is unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send me you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and smith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” (John 20:20-23)
The Scripture states that He appeared again after eight days. If the day of His resurrection and this first appearance were counted, then His second appearance was also on the first day of the week or the eighth day. “And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.” (John 20:26) A clear pattern appeared to be emerging.
Later, in the Acts of the Apostles we see the precedence being set by the apostolic leaders. It is stated that Paul and the church at Troas met together on the first day of the week to break bread and preach the Word. The text stated, “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. And there sat in a window a certain young man named Etches, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him. When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed. And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.” (Acts 20:7-12)
This is both a natural and spiritual indication that the day of His resurrection became a day of worship and instruction. The body of believers was forced out of the synagogue and the covenant of the Jewish Sabbath. They were experiencing a new beginning and the resurrection was absolute proof that the Lord of the church was indeed in their midst.
Apostle Paul solidified this pattern when he wrote to the churches of Galatia. Here are his words, “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2) Their gifts were brought to the church fellowship on this day of Christ-centered worship, communion, and instruction.
John the Revelator on the Lord’s Day
By the time John was exiled to Patmos, this fact of the Lord’s Day was clearly the conviction of the church. John is a prisoner on a bleak, rock island; but his soul is without despair. He testified, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet.” (Revelation 1:10) This is the one and only time that the Resurrection Sunday was called “The Lord’s Day.” It is unthinkable that he made reference to the Jewish Sabbath. Nothing about the Jewish Sabbath could be called the Lord’s Day. Jesus was probably crucified on Wednesday and was not resurrected until 3 days later or the first day of the week. There is no connection to the Feast of Israel or any other event for the Sabbath being “The Lord’s Day.” The resurrection day is clearly the one and only possibility. Otherwise, some truth in Scripture would suggest differently.
A New Covenant Fulfilling the Feast of Firstfruits
The resurrection presents the Lord Jesus Christ as our celebration of the firstfruits. He is the “He Lamb” presented prophetically in this very feast in Leviticus 23. The bread and wine that characterized that feast is the very essence of His sacrifice of a broken body and shed blood. Paul stated, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
What a celebration of Him we should experience every Lord’s Day. Our hope is not in the dead letter, but the living Word. It is a covenant of eternal glory, not of a passing system serving only as a tutor until the Messiah should come. Again, Paul confirms this very fact by quoting Jesus Christ Himself. “Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.” (Hebrews 10:5-7)
Christ came to exchange sacrifices and offerings for a “body” prepared by the Holy Ghost. Then He stated, “Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:9-10)
He took away one covenant to establish a better and enduring one. Paul then testified that this covenant was the witness which the Baptism of the Holy Ghost gave testimony. “And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.” (Hebrews 10:15-16) Let’s Return to the Reality of Christ’s Resurrection.
There is no room for ritualism in the Christian experience. It is life, joy, power, and hope. We are to live in a fresh relationship. Every time we go the House of the Lord it should be sheer delight. The resurrection life lifts man out of discouragement, doubt, and drudgery. This life is power to free us from every bondage of the devil and all the allurements of the world.
The Lord’s Day should be set aside to honor Him only. The common should be replaced with the uncommon. Commerce, entertainment, and earthly responsibilities should be rested for that day to give time for soul refreshment. The body was created with a seven day cycle. This design is God’s pattern built into the human soul and body. If we violate it, we do injustice to our own lives.
Children will learn more about reverence before God when raised in a home and family honoring the “Lord’s Day” than any other possible source. It’s the covenant we have received on that Resurrection Day and our souls will be refreshed if we return to His Rest.
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