The city of Colossae was once dominated by pagan ascetic philosophies and their approach to religion had a strong component of severity. The pagan majority had started to pressure God’s church. Pagans saw the festivals of God as a stark contrast to their way of life. Colossians 2:16-17 clearly shows that the gentiles in God’s church were being judged because they began keeping the Sabbath and God’s Holy Days.
Colossians 2:8, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments [elements] of the world, and not after Christ.” That is, don’t let worldly men lead you away from the examples Christ has set.
Paul’s letter tells the Colossians not to allow their pagan neighbors with their ignorant philosophies to judge them. This also applies to us. Neighbors may think it odd that we go to church on Saturday. They sometimes accuse us of “keeping Saturday for Sunday” and they note how peculiar it is. We all understand what it is like to be judged by others for what we may or may not eat and for keeping God’s Biblical Holy Days.
Colossians 2:16, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat [in eating and drinking], or in drink, or in respect [taking part] of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days.” Paul is explaining that these Holy Days are a guide or shadow of yet future events. They are a guide to God’s plan of salvation. That is an important revelation and not a dismissing of the Biblical Holy Days. Colossians 2:17 continues the thought, “Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.”
The word “is” in italics was added by the translators to make the meaning clearer. But if read without the word “is” the meaning becomes clearer. It reads, “Only let the body of Christ judge you on such matters.” Christ is the head of the church and Paul is saying only listen to the church of God on such matters. II Corinthians 10:4-5 has us breaking down pagan strongholds and philosophies!
Some will ask about Colosians 2:16-17. Are they only a shadow? First it says that the Holy Days are a shadow of things to come. Being a shadow does not diminish the days but elevates them. In the Greek language the word mello, translated ‘to come,’ explicitly points to events yet future. Paul is saying that the Sabbath and Holy Days are a guide. The grammar of Paul’s statement requires this meaning. Holy Days of God are a guide to God’s plan and a key to coming events.
Read Colossians 2:20-23 to see the nature of the asceticism Paul is referring to in these passages regarding pagan influences.
“v. 20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances [rudiments, elements],
“v. 21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not;
“v. 22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?
“v. 23 Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh [neglecting or punishing oneself].”
God’s Holy Days are festive festivals. They are feast days, the very opposite of asceticism.
Clearly the Passover and Unleavened Bread was a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for all mankind as the Lamb of God for all those years. Now we look back in remembrance of that glorious event. See John 1:36.
Pentecost described the coming of power for the early church which will one day be the first harvest. Note the second chapter of Acts.
The other Holy Days foreshadow events that are still in mankind’s future:
The Feast of Trumpets pictures the last trump of God and the return of the Messiah as a conquering king with a war trumpeter. See 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 and further note that in I Corinthians 15:52-54, Paul mentions the Trump of God prior to our being changed from mortal to immortal. Read Revelation 19:11-21 for more on Christ’s triumphant return.
Atonement is a guide to the world after Jesus’ conquest, as well as the believers being at one with God. The Feast of Tabernacles represents the millennial reign of Christ. The Last Great day symbolizes the last and final chance for all to be saved.
We remember that day every year as we keep the fall Holy days. Very soon, all nations will also keep the Feast of Tabernacles in the millennium or face the wrath of God. See Zachariah 14:16. Trumpets were in the Bible as an alarm of war like a siren. Christ will return to battle and crush the Beast and force all mankind to live righteously by His Laws. Trumpets were blown to gather the people for important events. The Last trump of Revelation and the second coming of Christ is the most important event coming in mankind’s future.
The key scriptures that we use to prove that gentile Christians were really keeping the Feast of Unleavened Bread with unleavened bread are in 1 Corinthians 5:6-8.
“v. 6 Your glorying is not good; know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?
“v. 7 Purge out therefore the old leaven that ye may be a new lump, AS YOU ARE UNLEAVENED. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us:”
Now, note verse 8, “Therefore LET US KEEP THE FEAST not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
Paul is saying to purge out (get rid of) the old leaven (sin), that ye may be a new (unleavened) lump (spiritually) as ye are (actually) unleavened. He wrote this to them during the Days of Unleavened Bread because he knew they would be unleavened!
Those who are deceived about keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread twist these scriptures and try to say that gentile Christians were not physically keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread. They say, “As you are unleavened” is merely a simile. A simile tries to make a point by comparing two things that are not alike, for instance, a man and a turtle. “He is as slow as a turtle” is a simile. A simile uses “like or as” for this comparison. In our simile “he” and “turtle” are not alike, but the turtle is used to point out that the man is slow physically.
If “as ye are unleavened” is only meant by Paul as a simile and not to mean that they were actually unleavened, then these scriptures would by saying be “free from leaven (sin, metaphorically), as you are free from leaven (sin again metaphorically).”
Similes are not constructed this way. It is illogical. Remember that a simile is a comparison between two things that are unlike. In the case of our scripture, the spiritual is being compared with the physical. Otherwise the simile makes no sense because it would not be comparing two things that are different. It would be like saying, “Be as fast as a turtle,” when a turtle is clearly not fast. What Paul must be writing is, “Be free from leaven (sin) spiritually, as you are free from leaven literally (physically).” Be unleavened spiritually as you are not unleavened physically makes no sense!
The Greek gentile Christians were literally unleavened years after Christ’s death, as Acts 20:6 and 12:3 plainly show. Paul tells these gentiles to keep the Feast. He is clearly speaking of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the New Testament Passover.
These Holy Days were given not just to Judah but to all of Israel. They are described in the Bible as, “The Feasts of the LORD.” God calls them His Feast Days. Read Leviticus 23 in which they are called His Sabbaths and Feasts. They belong to God and not to any one of the twelve tribes of Israel. God said that His annual Holy Days and the weekly Sabbath are an IDENTIFYING SIGN between Him and His people (see Exodus 31:13). These days link and identify us with the one true God.
These Holy Days were delivered to Israel before the sacrificial system was commanded. The Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread were given in Exodus 12 and 13. They help us identify with God’s rescue of Israel from slavery in Egypt and our rescue from slavery to sin by Christ. See Hebrews 8:7-8 and Jeremiah 7:21-23 as proof that the sacrificial system was added because of the weakness of the people, not any weakness in God’s annual Sabbath Laws!
Furthermore read Psalms 40:6 and 51:16. These annual days are part of the clear plan of salvation and we live it out each year as we keep God’s Holy Days, not man’s holidays. We remember the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the New Testament Church as we keep Pentecost each summer.
Jesus observed the Passover, Days of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day. He observed the Feast at the risk of His life (see John 7:1-2, 10, 37). In Matthew 26 He tells us He is looking forward to keeping the Passover again with His disciples when He returns.
The Church of God in the first century kept the Holy Days and it is clear that they ALL knew the days were still holy. This includes Paul the Apostle to the gentiles. No discussion of whether to keep them is found, just a record of them being kept. No one questioned the need to keep them.