While many Christmas traditions originated in the Christian church, several prominent traditions come from ancient pagan ceremonies. The question is, if we celebrate Christmas with the intent to worship and honor Christ and not to fulfill heathen rituals, does God care? Does He, instead, expect us to follow the Feasts that He instructed the Israelites to follow?

One possible answer to this conundrum might be found in the concept of the “age of the Gentiles.” In Luke 21:24 and Revelation 11:2, Jesus states that Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles and the temple will be taken by Gentiles, signaling the age of Gentile dominance. In Romans 11:25, Paul states that when “the fullness of the Gentiles” has arrived, Israel will see that Jesus is their Messiah.

For the Jewish people, the “time of the Gentiles” is the era in which the nations have dominance over Israel – which has been true for all of Christian history and our modern age. God’s promise in the Old Testament was that Israel would become a “light to the Gentiles” (Isaiah 42:6) and that all the Gentile rulers would see the majesty of Israel raised up (Isaiah 60:3). In Acts 1, the apostles ask Jesus when Israel would be the dominant global power and when the Romans would be overthrown. Jesus tells them that this is not for them but for the Father to know, but they are commanded to go into all the nations preaching the Gospel and demonstrating the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:6-7).

We see this Gospel in Acts, Paul’s writings, and throughout the New Covenant. In the age of the Gentiles, Gentiles believers are primarily called to know Christ.

When Israel received the Law of Moses, it did not carry out that Law perfectly. They struggled with many sins, most notably idolatry. When God warned them not to do what the Canaanites did, He was not referring to hanging wreaths or decorating pine trees; the warning was about their attempts to worship YHWH with sexual perversion and child sacrifice like the pagan tribes did (Leviticus 20; Deuteronomy 18:9-14). These are the major sins that God is grieved by.

In the current age, the reality is that the Gentiles and the nations have been granted cultural and political influence. Therefore, hanging decorations in the name of Christ is not the same as idol worship, sexual perversion, or child sacrifice, which God specifically condemned in the Law (Leviticus 20; Deuteronomy 18:9-14). One day, however, Jesus will return, and all nations will practice the feasts of God, according to the prophets. Paul makes it clear in Romans that we are not held to the Law in the same way the Israelites were because our sinful nature is unable to keep the Law, whether Jew or Gentile. The Law brings death and judgment.

When Christ returns and does away with the nature of sin at the start of His millennial reign, all the nations will observe the laws of God, the age of the Gentiles will cease, and Israel will return to its place of prominence as God’s chosen people. It is unlikely that Gentile Christian holidays (which are distinct from the Feasts in the Law of Moses) will be practiced anymore, as those are merely cultural machinations and not decrees of the Lord. These are all allowances for Gentiles to come to faith in Christ and learn the “weightier matters of the Law” – the love and mercy of God.

Interested in learning more about the Millennial Reign of Christ? Check out The Millennial Temple at ISOW.org for a more in depth study on topics like this!

–    Matthew Foley, ISOW Instructor and Staff Writer