I greet you once again the Name of Jesus!
I pray that you were blessed by our examination of Revelation 12 in the last two posts. I know some would agree with my analysis, others would not. That is fine. I believe one thing is certain, and that is that we need to be ready and watching for the Return of our Lord. I do believe we are in the season of the Return of the Lord. I base that statement not only on the signs of the times, and the preliminary “birth pains” happening all around us, but also on the festival schedule, which is really God’s calendar. Most Christians don’t know anything about the Festivals of the Lord, but we should. Now, please understand, I am not advocating for New Testament Christians being required to observe the festivals. I believe we can, and I believe doing so can really enhance a believers understanding and appreciation for all Messiah Jesus did on our behalf, but we are not required to. Required is really the key word here.
Many Christians believe based on wrong teaching in the Church, that Jesus’ death on the cross actually canceled or annulled the Law. It did not. Jesus redeemed us not from the Law, but from the curse of the Law (Gal. 3:13). The broken Law carried with it a penalty, a curse. Jesus redeemed us from that curse. The Bible says in our King James Version, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” [Rom. 10:4 KJV emphasis added] Many assume based on this translation that this means Christ ended the Law. That is not what Paul is saying here however. David Stearn did an excellent job of capturing the Greek text here in The Complete Jewish Bible. His translation reads, “For the goal at which the Torah aims is the Messiah, who offers righteousness to everyone who trusts.” [ Romans 10:4 CJB] Messiah Jesus was the goal to which all of the instructions (which is what Torah means), were pointing. This would include the seven Feasts of the Lord, outlined in Leviticus 23. Before we get to those however, I want to point out one additional thing that Jesus said with regard to the Law. He said in Matthew 5:17, 18,
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” [Matthew 5:17, 18 KJV]
Based on what Jesus said here, how can anyone say that the Law has been done away with? It has not all been fulfilled at this point. Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. Jesus actually makes an idiomatic statement in verse 17. What is that? An idiom is a form of expression natural to a language, person, or group of people. We have several idioms in the English language. Expressions such as, “He really went to town on that issue,” “He’s true blue”, “That is a hot potato”, “A penny for your thoughts.” These are all examples of idioms in English. Hebrew is full of idioms. The problem is those idioms came over into Greek, and then into English; and in doing so lost their meaning.
When Jesus said that He came not to destroy the Law but to fulfill it, He was saying that He came to make the Law full and full of meaning. In essence He was saying He came to make the Law stand upright and make it visible. It is difficult to translate Hebrew idioms into English, but that is the thought. Jesus making the Law (Torah) full of meaning is no more evident than in the Feasts. I want to look at the significance, and especially the prophetic significance, of the Feasts of the Lord in this post. This will probably take more than one post to cover.
The Feasts are really God’s calendar. He gave them to mark significant events in the life of His people. We can look at history and see many key events that have happened on Feast days, in fact all of the key events in the life of Messiah Jesus occurred on Feast days. I want to emphasize once again that the Bible makes it clear that as New Testament Christians we are not to be legalistic about Feast days. However, they do point to things to come. Colossians 2:16, 17 says, “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.” [Col. 2:16, 17 KJV emphasis added] Here again we can get some good insight from, The Complete Jewish Bible. Verse 17a is translated there, “These are a shadow of things that are coming…” [Col. 2:17a CJB] And so they are.
My focus in this post (or perhaps posts), is to look at the prophetic significance of the Feasts of the Lord as they relate to Messiah Jesus, and consequently you and I as believers. I want to look back and then look forward to what we can expect in the days, weeks, or years ahead as believers in Messiah Jesus.
First, let’s look back.
THE BIRTH OF JESUS
We can say with 100% accuracy I believe, that Jesus was not born on December 25th. I know most Christians observe this date to commemorate His birth, but He was not born on that date. I won’t quarrel with anyone on this point, so you are free to believe what you want. There are arguments for and against a late birth, around December, but I am not going to get into that here. John the Baptist was conceived (based on the Hebrew calendar and assignment of the course of priests), in mid Sivan (May/June), and born 40 weeks later on Nisan 15th, the Passover. Isn’t that interesting?
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy with John the angel Gabriel appears to Elizabeth’s cousin, a young virgin girl by the name of Mary, to announce that she would bear the Messiah supernaturally by the work of the Holy Spirit. Messiah Jesus then would have been conceived (adding six months to late Nisan), in late Kislev (Nov/Dec). Interestingly enough, the first day of the Jewish festival Hanukkah is celebrated on the 25th day of Kislev, and is known as the Festival of lights. Messiah Jesus is known as, “The Light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5; 12:46). His very conception fulfilled a Festival! It should be noted that Hanukkah was not one of the original Festivals, but was added and began to be observed in the time of the Maccabees. At any rate it is very interesting that Messiah, the Light of the World, would be conceived at the time of this Festival. It gets more interesting, however.
If Jesus was conceived in late Kislev (Nov./Dec.), he would have been born approximately 40 weeks later, somewhere around the 15th of the 7th month, Tishri – the first day of the Festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles). We are told in John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of an only begotten of a father, full of grace and truth.” [John 1:14 Young’s Literal Translation YLT]
If Messiah Jesus was born on the first day of Sukkot (Tabernacles), his circumcision would have been eight days later, on what is known on the Hebrew calendar as Shemini Atzeret/Sinchat Torah, which like the first day, is a day of sacred assembly (Leviticus 23:39). On this day the Jews complete their annual cycle of Torah readings and start again from Bereshit (Genesis). Sinchat Torah is considered to be a time of the fulfillment of the Torah. The circumcision of Jesus at this time gives further evidence of how He came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. Nothing in the Bible is there by accident.
Interestingly enough, after Jesus returns to set-up His Kingdom the only one of the Feasts to be observed by the nations will be Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles. Zechariah 14:16 says, “And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.” [Zech. 14:16 KJV] All of the rest of the Feasts will have been fulfilled. Could it be that Tabernacles will be kept as a world-wide celebration of Jesus’ birth? I think that is a distinct possibility.
While we cannot be dogmatic about all of these dates, it is very interesting nonetheless. The exact date of Jesus’ birth is really irrelevant, as we know the date of His crucifixion was on erev pesach (Passover), and His resurrection was on Nisan 17th (first fruits), and biblically speaking this is of far greater significance (1 Cor. 2:2; 1 Cor. 15:3, 4, etc.).
Leviticus 23 is the single chapter in the Bible that really sums up everything with regard to the plan of God for mankind. In this chapter we move from chaos to eternity – and this is all revealed in the nature and timing of the seven annual Feasts of the Lord. In reality, prophetically speaking, the entire human race is living between two of these Feasts.
It was on Mount Sinai that God gave Moses the dates and observances of the seven Feasts. Here are their names (I will list the English and Hebrew names, as well as the dates of the Feasts on the Jewish calendar):
Passover (Pesach) Nisan 14, 15
Unleavened Bread (Chag Hamotzi) Nisan 15 – 22
First Fruits (Yom habikkurim) Nisan 16, 17
Pentecost (Shavuot) Sivan 6, 7
Trumpets (Yom Teruah) Tishri 1
Atonement (Yom Kippur) Tishri 10
Tabernacles (Sukkot) Tishri 15 – 22
It is important to understand that the Jewish calendar, which in reality is the calendar God established, is based on the phases of the moon. Each month in a lunar calendar begins with a new moon. Pesach (Passover) begins on the first full moon of spring. The first three feasts, Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits fall in March and April. The fourth one, Shavuot (Pentecost), marked the summer harvest and occurs in late May or early June. The last three feasts are the fall feasts – Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles, and they occur in September and October.
We need to understand that with the First Advent of Christ, and the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, the four spring feasts were fulfilled exactly to the letter, on the day of each of the feasts. There is no reason to doubt that the remaining three feasts, the fall feasts, will be just as precisely fulfilled with the catching away of the Church, the Second Coming of Christ to the Earth, and the setting up of the Millennial Kingdom.
Let’s look first of all at the Spring Feasts.
THE SPRING FEASTS
- Passover (Pesach) – Leviticus 23:5
“In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’S Passover.” [Lev. 23:5 KJV] The Festival season begins “on the fourteenth day of the first month” (Nisan 15). Passover is the feast of salvation. In both testaments, the blood of the Lamb delivers from slavery – the Jews from Egypt, the Christian from sin. Think for a moment about the tenth plague in Exodus 12:5 when Egypt’s first born sons died while the death angel “passed over” the Jewish homes with the blood of the Lamb on their door posts. We know from the New Testament, that Jesus is the once and for all sacrificial Lamb, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Paul writing to the Corinthians said, “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.” [1 Cor. 5:7 KJV] Christ in His death on the cross fulfilled Passover.
- Unleavened Bread (Chag HaMotzi) – Leviticus 23:6
Leviticus 23:6 places the second feast on the next night, “And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread.” Yeast or leaven in biblical typology represents sin and evil. Unleavened bread eaten over a period of time, symbolized a holy walk with the Lord. Unleavened bread in the New Testament is understood to represent the body of the Lord. He is described as, “The Bread of Life” (John 6:35, 48), and interestingly, was born in Bethlehem, the “house of bread.” If you look at a piece of matzah bread, you will notice that it is striped, “With His stripes we are healed”, pierced, “…they shall look upon me whom they have pierced”, and pure, without any leaven, as His body was without any sin. Also the Passover custom of burying, hiding, and then “resurrecting” the second of three pieces of matzot (the middle piece), presents the gospel. As the second piece of matzot was buried during unleavened bread, Jesus was buried in a borrowed tomb. Jesus in His sinless life and burial fulfilled the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
- First Fruits (Reshit Katzir) – Leviticus 23:11
“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.” [Lev. 23:11 KJV] This was the next day after the Sabbath associated with Unleavened Bread. This feast is about acknowledging the fertility of the land the Lord gave the Israelites. The people were to bring the early crops of their spring planting and “wave the sheaf before the Lord.” It was a declaration of faith that the Lord would bless the remainder of the crops and bring the rest of the harvest in. The modern Church has come to refer to this feast as, “Easter”, named after Ishtar, the pagan goddess of fertility. On Easter people still revere objects of fertility, like the rabbit and the egg, but the First Fruits celebration was to be a celebration of God’s replanting of the earth in the spring. Today the Feast celebrates the resurrection of the Lord on First Fruits. He is our First Fruits offering. The Bible says, “ But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.” [1 Cor. 15:20 KJV] Because Jesus rose from the dead, sticking with the concept of the First Fruits offering, it is the guarantee that all who sleep in Christ Jesus will also be raised at the rapture/resurrection!
- Pentecost (Shavuot) – Leviticus 23:16
“Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD.” [Lev. 23:16 KJV] In late May or early June, Shavuot (Pentecost) marked the time of summer harvest. Leviticus 23:17 tells us, “Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the LORD.” The two loaves represent the fact that the Church is comprised of two parts – Jew and Gentile. The loaves were leavened loaves, representing the sin nature that resides in every believer. This Feast originally commemorated the giving of the Torah on Sinai. It is interesting that Jesus chose to send the Holy Spirit on this Feast. We read in Acts 2:1, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” The “one place” was not the upper room where they had been assembled for ten days, but would have been the Temple Court, where they would have gathered for pray on shavuot (Pentecost). Isn’t it interesting that the Advent of the Holy Spirit, and the subsequent “birthday” of the Church occurred on a Feast Day originally established to commemorate the giving of Torah?
We see in this I submit to you that the Law and the Spirit work together, and you really can’t have one without the other. We get a glimpse of this in 2 Corinthians 3:6, “Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” The letter of the Law “kills”, because the breaking of it carried a curse of death, with no forgiveness available. The Spirit however gives “life”, in that in the New Testament we find the shed blood of Messiah Jesus, as we place our faith in what He did, brings remission of sin. There is more however.
In many places in the Christian Church we see nothing but Law, doctrine, all Word with no Holy Spirit. In other places we see what is being portrayed as the operation of the Holy Spirit, and it is nothing but chaos, fleshly manifestations that are in reality not the Holy Spirit, and some I believe have actually given place to demon spirits to manifest in their services. What is missing in churches and meetings like this? Solid biblical teaching. So we see that we need the Word, we need doctrinal teaching, and on the other hand we need the move of the Holy Spirit. It has been said all Word and you dry up, all Spirit you blow up, and I believe there is truth to that statement. In short, we need the balance the letter brings, and the life and freedom the Spirit brings. To teach us this I believe is why Jesus sent the Spirit on Pentecost, the day to commemorate the giving of Torah.
In summary, Jesus fulfilled Passover on the cross, Unleavened Bread in His burial, First Fruits in His resurrection, and the Advent of the Holy Spirit fulfilled Pentecost. God works in the earth, with His people, on His calendar, which is the Festival schedule. He was very precise in establishing the Feasts, and has been very exact in fulfilling that which they pointed to. The spring feasts have been fulfilled. The fall feasts are yet to be fulfilled. I believe God will be just as exact in fulfilling them.
We will take a look next time at the Fall Feasts, and what they mean for our future as believers.
Join us then.
Until next time,
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson