Through the feasts, God forecast the entire career of the Messiah, the Jews, the Church, and even the other nations.
The Hebrew word for “feasts” (moadim) literally means "appointed times." The feasts were laid out in the calendar year with the first three occurring close together, then the coming of the Holy Spirit shortly after, followed by the long pause waiting the Rapture of the Church. We also see God's clever design shown in the earthly week - six feasts of work and the last one of rest. The biblical history has described some six thousand years, and if we are to foresee the kingdom somewhere in the near future, then a logical one thousand year rest period is coming up. (3)
I. The Feast of PASSOVER (Leviticus 23:5)
God's calendar is a lunar calendar based on the phases of the moon. Each month starts with a new moon, reaching a full moon in the midst of the 28 day cycle. Thus Passover always falls on a full moon - the first full moon of spring (usually April).
Passover is the feast of salvation from sin (1). For the Hebrews it was deliverance from bondage (Exodus 12), and for the Christian, deliverance from sin (1). Jesus was sacrificed on Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7. John 19:14). The Jews marked their houses with the blood of the lamb, and the Christian marks his house (his body, 2 Corinthians 5:1. 1 Corinthians 6:19;3:16) with the blood of Christ (Hebrews 9:22, Ephesians 1:7. Revelation 1:5. Romans 5:9. Ephesians 2:13. 1 John 1:7. 1 Peter 1:18,19. Acts 20:28. Revelation 12:11). We do not keep the feast in remembrance of the exodus from Egypt, since that was a shadow of the greater redemption to come. We take communion, a part of the original Passover feast, in remembrance of the Lord (1) (Matthew 26:27. John 1:29).
II. The feast of UNLEAVENED BREAD (Leviticus 23:6)
The second feast begins on the next night after Passover. God told the Jews to eat only the pure unleavened bread during the week following Passover. Leaven in the Bible typically symbolized sin and evil (1 Corinthians 5:7,8). Unleavened bread, eaten over a period of time symbolized a holy walk with the Lord. In the New Testament, the unleavened bread is the body of our Lord (John 6:33). The piece of bread, Jewish matzo, used by the Jews during this week of Unleavened Bread was striped (just like Jesus' body, Isaiah 53). The Passover ceremony of breaking and burying and then resurrecting a piece of this bread presents the Gospel in the midst of the modern Jewish Passover celebration.
God performed this exact ceremony with the burial of Jesus (1) on the exact day of the feast. Men have speculated how Jesus died so quickly on the cross. Crucifixion normally took three days but Jesus died in 6 hours. Our Lord died in time to be buried at sundown that day. He was placed on the cross at 9:00 a.m. and taken down at 3:00 p.m. There was time enough to wrap the body and bury it at sundown. Jesus said that no one could take His life from Him - "I lay it down and I take it up again." (John 10:17,18)
III. The feast of FIRST FRUITS (Leviticus 23:10,11)
Held on the Sunday following Unleavened Bread. God wanted a special feast during which the Jews would acknowledge the fertility of the fine land He gave them. They were to bring the early crops of their spring planting (first fruits) to the priest at the Temple to be waved before the Lord on their behalf. This was to be done "the morrow after the Sabbath" or Sunday. Since the feast of Unleavened Bread was seven days long, one of those days would be a Sunday.
We have come to call this feast Easter after the Babylonian goddess, Ishtar, the goddess of fertility. But the celebration was to be over God's replanting of the earth in the spring. We miss an important truth by not using the term "First Fruits" because "first" implies a second, third, etc... We celebrate the resurrection of the Lord as First Fruit (1 Corinthians 15:20,23) and the resurrection of the rest of us as we each follow Him (1) in our own time to Heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17).
Jesus celebrated the Sunday of the week of His crucifixion by rising from the dead (1). It was not some other day He chose but the very day of First Fruits. First Fruits was the last of the feasts that the Lord was seen personally fulfilling on earth. But His ministry to the Church was to go on of course, in the feasts to follow, each on their appropriate days.
IV. The feast of PENTECOST (Leviticus 23:17)
God gave very specific directions for counting the proper number of days until the Feast of Harvest, which we refer to as Pentecost. It was to take place exactly 50 days after First Fruits (usually late May or early June). It actually marked the summer harvest. Here two "wave loaves" of equal weight were baked with leaven, representing sinful man and called "firstfruits" thereby representing redeemed or resurrected men. God was predicting that the Church would be comprised of two parts, Jew and Gentile.
Jesus rejoined His disciples after His resurrection and taught them for forty days. Then He told them to wait at Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit would come. And He did (1), exactly on the day of the feast (Acts 1:3). It was a great "harvest" of souls as 3000 people joined in that day (Acts 2:1. Exodus 32:28). Of course that is only a token of the harvest that will occur at the rapture of the church.
Four coincidences are hard to explain away, especially when each one is so completely appropriate to its purpose. Because we have not yet seen the fulfillment to feast number five, we remain under the orders of Pentecost, continuing the summer crop cultivation, as we work in the field until the great harvest marked by the next feast.
V. The feast of TRUMPETS (Leviticus 23:24)
In the seventh month (usually in September), on the first day of the month, they had a memorial of blowing of trumpets. This jump in time from the last feast represents the Church Age, since the trumpet represents the Rapture of the Church (1) (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51,52).
The trumpet blowing was a signal for the field workers to stop harvesting and leave immediately (1) for worship at the Temple. Imagine a Jew and Arab working side by side in the field. The Jew would leave and the Arab would stay. "Where there are two working in a field, one will be taken and the other left." (Matthew 24:40)
VI. The feast of ATONEMENT (Leviticus 23:27)
On the Day of Atonement, the Jew either lived or died. The High Priest of Israel entered the Holy of Holies to make a sacrifice on behalf of himself and Israel. If the Jew did not strictly follow the law of Leviticus 23:28-30 and Leviticus 23:32, he could be cut off (1) from his people. For that 24 hour period he was to do no work, but rather was to use the time for confessing his sins of the entire year. We might even balk at the idea of merely staying awake for 24 hours, but if our salvation hung in the balance, we would try to make it.
This feast will not be fulfilled by the church, because the church owes no atonement. The church is not innocent of course, but Jesus has paid the price for our sins.
The Day of Atonement will be fulfilled for the Jews when the Lord returns at His second coming (1) (Zechariah 12:10. Romans 11:1-6;25-36). (2)
VII. The feast of TABERNACLES (Leviticus 23:34)
This is God's celebration of the fact that He provided shelter for the Israelites in the wilderness. Each year on Tabernacles, the fifteenth day of the seventh month, devout Jews build little shelters outside their houses, and worship in them.
God's great Tabernacle will exist in Jerusalem during the Kingdom Age (Zechariah 14:16-19). All the world will come every year to appear before the King and worship Him (1) (Ezekiel 37:26,27. Micah 4:1-7).
(1) Left click on underlined phrase to open another article in a different tab with more explanation.
(2) Sometimes Christians think that all the Jews will be saved anyway, so why should we bother witnessing to them now? Since only surviving Israel will be saved when the Lord returns, a man who dies now before being saved, Jew or Gentile, cannot obtain salvation in the future, and we should note that it will be very difficult for Israel to survive the tribulation in any great numbers. The prophets lament that two-thirds of that nation shall perish at the hands of the Antichrist.
(3) Adapted from "THE SEVEN FEASTS OF ISRAEL" By Zola Levitt.
(4) See attached PowerPoint for larger view of graphics.