The Seven Feasts of Israel are Fulfilled in Jesus

Feasts of Israel Calendar

INTRODUCTION

In Leviticus 23 we find the most comprehensive record of how the Israelites were commanded by God to observe seven feasts over a period of seven months.  The Hebrew for feasts, moadim is strictly translated as appointed times.  Four feasts were in the spring and the final three were observed in autumn.  The feasts have multiple layers of meaning and application.  They were related to the agricultural cycle and historical events meant to remind the Hebrews of what the LORD has done for them.  As important as these recognitions were, they are nothing compared to what the feasts were ultimately about.

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.  These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.  Col. 2:16-17 (ESV)

The days regularly observed by the Israelites were a shadow or prophetic types pointing to what their Messiah has done or will do.  In other words, every single feast was really about one of the major works that Jesus would perform.  When the Israelites observed the feasts they were in a sense putting on plays that celebrated Jesus.  Leviticus 23 is a striking prophetic summary of God’s plan to redeem creation.

PASSOVER

In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the LORD’s Passover.  Leviticus 23:5

Passover (Heb. Pesach) began on the 14th of Nisan.  The feast was to observe when the Israelites were passed over by the wrath of the LORD as He moved through Egypt slaying the firstborn of each family.  The LORD passed over each home that had the blood of a sacrificed lamb applied to the lintel and doorposts (Ex. 12:1-28).  Even before the first Passover occurred, Moses ordered that the day would be kept as a memorial and a feast (Ex. 12:14).

On the 10th day of Nisan, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on His donkey.  This happened on the very same day that the Israelites were to select their unblemished lambs to be sacrificed by the whole congregation four days later (Ex. 12:3-6).  Like the unblemished lambs, Jesus was presented to Israel as being perfect (i.e. sinless) before being sacrificed on the 14th day of Nisan or the beginning of Passover (John 19:14).  The Passover lambs died at twilight (Ex. 12:6; Lev. 23:5) as did Jesus (e.g. Matt. 27:45-50).[1]

Of course Jesus is the ultimate Passover lamb which the others were only pointing to.  Jesus was truly the lamb without defect (1 Peter 1:19) as He knew no sin (2 Cor. 5:21).  Jesus was the lamb who takes sin away from the world (John 1:29).  Paul even identified Christ as the Passover lamb that had been sacrificed (1 Cor. 5:7).

whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.  This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.  Romans 3:25

The blood of Jesus is applied to those who have faith in Him.  This allows the sin of the saved person to be covered by the righteousness of Christ so that God may pass over.  This is the true Passover that the first one in Egypt and the reenactments on the feast day were only looking to.

UNLEAVENED BREAD

And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.  On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.  But you shall present a food offering to the Lord for seven days. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.” Leviticus 23:6

The feast of Unleavened Bread begins on the 15th of Nisan and lasts for seven days.  The first and last days of the seven day feast are identified as holy convocations or high Sabbaths.  The feast looked to recall how the Israelites were not able to add yeast to their bread as they fled from Egypt (Ex. 12:33-34).  The prohibition against eating leavened bread during the feast was so severe that the all of it had to be removed from the Israelites homes.  If any person did eat leavened bread then he or she was cut off from Israel (e.g. Ex. 12:15).

Recall that Jesus died only hours before sunset on Nisan 14.  He would have been buried on the 15th of Nisan and thus on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  While the burial of Jesus clearly fulfilled this feast, it is not immediately obvious as to how.  The answer lies in that Scripture often uses leaven as a picture of sin and its corrupting nature.  Jesus Himself used leaven in this sense on a few occasions including Mark 8:15:

And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”

The apostle Paul also used leaven in this sense as part of his teachings.  For example, 1 Corinthians 5:6:

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?

The burial of Jesus then signified Messiah’s sinless life and thereby Him being the perfect sacrifice.  It may even be fair to conclude that the buried body of Jesus was likened to a kernel of wheat planted in the ground that would soon burst forth as the bread of life (John 6:35-51).  Even the Matzo bread used by Jews in celebrating Passover today is filled with piercings and wounds (Is. 53:5).

Unleavened Bread

FIRSTFRUITS

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.   Leviticus 23:9-11

The feast of Firstfruits is on the 17th of Nisan.  On this day the harvest was celebrated by waving a sheaf of the first ripened grain[2] before the LORD.  Jesus rose from the dead on the third day and therefore on the feast of Firstfruits.  His resurrection was like a wave offering before the Father that signaled that there would be many more to follow (Rom. 8:23).  Paul verifies this in 1 Corinthians 15:20:

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

WEEKS OR PENTECOST

“You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the Lord.  Leviticus 23:15-16

On the 6th of Sivan Shavuot or the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost (Greek for fifty) was to be observed.  It was a common Jewish belief that Weeks was commemorated in order to celebrate the day that the LORD gave Moses the Law on Mt. Sinai and the subsequent birth of Israel as a nation (Ex. 19).  Moses brought the people out to meet God and they saw that Mt. Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended upon it in fire (Ex. 19:17-18).

Another holy nation, the Church (1 Pet. 2:9) (i.e. the Body of Christ) was born on Pentecost when the Father sent the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ name (John 14:26) to indwell His people (Acts 2).  Jesus appeared over a period of forty days after His resurrection (Acts 1:3).  Before Jesus ascended, He told the apostles not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised.  For ten days the apostles were waiting for something to happen.  The wait was necessary because the Holy Spirit had to come on the specified day.  Fifty days after Messiah’s resurrection on Firstfruits, God once again descended upon His people with fire (Acts 2:3).

It is even possible that the two loaves of bread that were to be brought before the LORD (Lev. 23:17) represented both Jew and Gentile.

SUMMER

The first four feasts in the spring and the last three in the fall were respectively celebrated in clusters.  The long season between the two clusters of feasts apparently represents the period between the two advents of Messiah.  Paul explains that this is a time in which Israel is partially hardened until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (Rom. 11:25).  When this period ends the prophetic clock on Israel will resume and thus the beginning of the fall feasts.

Because the last three feasts have not been fulfilled, only speculation is provided on how they will be.  However, there is enough Biblical evidence to allow for solid educated guesses.  Because the first four feasts were fulfilled on the same days they were celebrated, this pattern is likely to continue.

TRUMPETS

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation.  You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present a food offering to the Lord.”  Leviticus 23:23-25

Feast of TrumpetsYom Teruah or the Feast of Trumpets is on the 1st of Tishri and marks the beginning of the high holy days or the days of awe.  Scripture never tells us what this feast was meant to commemorate but identifies it as a holy convocation or high Sabbath.  A common Jewish teaching is that on this day God records the fate of every human in the book of life.  It is also opined that this feast looked forward to the fall of Jericho by the blasting of trumpets on the seventh day.  Regardless, the feast’s ultimate fulfillment will be in a work by Messiah.  In all likelihood this work will be the one described in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.   

The Feast of Trumpets likely shadowed the resurrection of the dead and the gathering of Christ’s people in the air to meet Him.  The day of the LORD begins with a time of great destruction and wrath (e.g. 1 Thess. 5:1-9).  The prophet Joel tells Israel to blow a trumpet because the day of the LORD could come at any moment (Joel 2:1).  It is of note that Paul speaks of the resurrection and gathering of the saints right before addressing the day of the LORD.  Regardless of when one wants to place the gathering of the saints in relation to beginning of the day of the LORD, it still takes place before the Second Coming and fits the pattern of the feasts being fulfilled in order.

DAY OF ATONEMENT

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present a food offering to the Lord. And you shall not do any work on that very day, for it is a Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God.  Leviticus 23:26-28

Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement is observed on the 10th of Tishri and is the most holy day among the Israelites.  This is the last of the high holy days and also the last opportunity during the year for sins to be confessed and atoned for.  By fasting and refraining from work the people played out what it would be like to receive the death sentence for a day.  All that could be done was to throw oneself at the mercy of the court and seek the forgiveness of God based on His merit alone.

The Second Coming of Messiah fits the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement best.  On this day the final remnant of the Jews will look upon Him whom they have pierced and weep bitterly (Zech. 12:10).  The Jewish people will then come to experience true atonement by throwing themselves at the mercy of Jesus their Messiah.  Finally, all of Israel will be saved (Rom. 11:26).  Jesus required that the Jewish nation say of Him, “blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” before they would see Him again (Matt. 23:39).  At last this requirement will be fulfilled and Jesus will return to Earth (Zech. 14:4).

TABERNACLES

 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the Lord…You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, Leviticus 23:33-34; 42

Sukkot or the Feast of Tabernacles was to be observed on the 15th of Tishri.  The feast memorialized the Israelites living in tabernacles when the LORD brought them out of Israel (Lev. 23:43).

The Feast of Tabernacles will be fulfilled by the Millennium or Messianic age.  This is a glorious period when Satan is bound and God in the person of Jesus will tabernacle with His people (e.g. Is. 24:21-23; Zech. 14:9; Rev. 20:1-7).  Jesus literally tabernacles with man by being the divine word and taking on flesh.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.  John 1:14

The Greek σκηνόω is translated as dwelt here.  However, it literally means to abide in a tabernacle.  It is for this reason that Jesus may have even been born of the Feast of Tabernacles.

On the first day of the feast, branches of olive, wild olive, myrtle, palm and other leafy trees were gathered to make the booths (Neh. 8:15).  Saints coming out of the tribulation to enter the Millennium are described as holding palms in their hand (Rev. 7:9-17).

Zechariah 14 describes events that will take place during the Millennium or Messianic age.  Only one feast is mentioned as being celebrated; tabernacles.  During the Messianic age there will still be unbelievers on earth and they will be forced to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles or Messiah will allow no rain to fall on their land (Zech. 14:17-18).  The importance of observing the feast during the Messianic age among even non-believers is striking.  The fulfilled feast is so connected with the Messianic age that the two are virtually indistinguishable.

While this connection may seem tenuous to those new to studying it, the position is an ancient one rooted in the early church.  For example, the third century church father Methodius of Olympus wrote:

The resurrection, which is the true Feast of the Tabernacles…on the first day of the resurrection, which is the day of judgment, celebrate with Christ the millennium of rest, which is called the seventh day, even the true Sabbath. Then again from thence I after the rest of the Feast of Tabernacles, come into the heavens, not continuing to remain in tabernacles…[3]

CONCLUSION

Our God is truly amazing in the way that He has ordered events to unfold according to His sovereign purposes.  The Feasts of Israel may have been celebrated by the Israelites for certain reasons.  However, even in Leviticus God said that the feasts were appointed of the LORD and that they were His (Lev. 23:2).  Their true nature was never limited to what the Israelites had gone through or needed from God, rather they were about the glorious things God would accomplish as the Son.  Truly, the substance belongs to Christ.


[1] The ninth hour was at 3 P.M.  The decline of the sun in the sky constituted the twilight period.

[2] Likely barley as it was the first to ripen.

[3] Methodius, Banquet of the Ten Virgins, Ch. 5.

Comments

  1. John Hoffman says:

    Passover was the conception of the church not birth, Christ (the head) was born on trumpets as will the body be on 21 Sep 2017 at the sign of Rev 12.1-5.

  2. HEBREW ENGLISH
    Yom T’ruah Trumpets
    (also called Rosh HaShanah)
    The feast of trumpets was governed by the very start of the new moon. Israel did not know THE DAY OR THE HOUR this would take place. Because 2 people from Israel had to see this new moon at the same time. This is when Feast of Trumpets actually started. That Moment. and The Trumpets Blew in Israel. If it was a cloudy night and the moon wasn’t visible they had to wait until it was visible. Not knowing the Day or the Hour or the Moment. This is also the statement for the Rapture of the saints. The catching away. On feast of trumpets. ( what year ? ) the Rapture will happen. Jesus has to fulfill this next feast first. This is a Hebrew account of how the feast would begin. It’s in there writings. Paul knew this very well when he wrote the Rapture statement. Mel Sims

  3. What was wrong with my reply.

  4. Where or from whom did the theory originate?

    • Matthew Ervin says:

      The New Testament itself confirms that the feasts are fulfilled in the Messiah, in the events that happened on the same dates, in the language used to describe them and in these events actually being referred to by the feast names. You can find early church fathers, such as Methodius (documented in the article), speaking of this as common knowledge.

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