<<special times of celebration>>

Israel was commanded to keep annual feasts or festivals celebrating special days set apart for rest and remembering what God had done for them – 19 days were allocated each year (Lev 23:4).  This was in addition to the weekly Sabbath which was also regarded as a special day for the Lord, a day of joy and on which no work was to be done (Ex 20:8-11; Lev 23:2,3; Isa 58:13).

Each man was required to bring a gift and to appear before the Lord in Jerusalem for three of these feasts each year; these pilgrimage festivals were the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles (Ex 23:14-17, 34:23; Deut 16:16,17). These times of special remembrance continue to be observed today by orthodox Jews. They have further significance for all believers as they also demonstrate the work of redemption through God’s Son, the Jewish Messiah. These symbolised or prophetic insights are enclosed in {brackets} in the following text.

While Christians are not under obligation to observe any of these OT feasts, we should understand their significance and importance (Col 2:16). The first four of the seven feasts occur during springtime and have already been fulfilled by Christ, our source of hope,

Each feast has a parallel fulfilment

during His first coming to complete the redemptive work on the cross. The remaining three feasts, which are yet to be fulfilled in connection with His second coming, are the promise of what is to come – eternity with Christ for those who are truely born again.

* The Passover (Lev 23:5). The Jewish name for this feast observed during March/April is Pesach. It is a one-day celebration commemorating God sparing the lives of Israel’s first born children in Egypt (Ex 12:1-30). {The Passover is a type or picture of the death and resurrection of Jesus as our Passover Lamb, with our subsequent deliverance through the new birth (1 Cor 5:7)}.

* The Feast of Unleavened Bread began the next day after the Passover and lasted for seven days during which time bread without leaven (yeast) was eaten – it celebrated their exodus from the old life of bondage in Egypt enroute to the Promised Land (Ex 12:14ff; Lev 23:6-8). {Leaven throughout the Bible speaks of sin (Lk 12:1; 1 Cor 5:7,8).  The parallel is the Christian leaving the old life of corruption and entering a new way of life – that of the sinless Christ}.

* The Feast of First Fruits (Lev 23:9-14). A one-day celebration at the beginning of the barley harvest, reminding them how God had provided in their agricultural-based economy. {Christ’s resurrection is the ‘first fruit’ of those who have died (1 Cor 15:20). All believers will likewise be resurrected to inherit an incorruptible body (1 Cor 15:35-49)}.

* The Feast of Weeks, Harvest or Pentecost – Shavuot to the Jews (Lev 23:15-22). This one-day celebration occurred 50 days after the First Fruits Feast celebrating the end of the barley harvest and beginning of the wheat harvest. It was observed during late May/early June. Its focus was gratitude to God for the bountiful harvest. {The Holy Spirit is sent as promised to indwell believers and empower them for ministry, with many coming to faith in Christ in this the church age (Jn 14:6; Act 1:6, 2:1, 20:16; Eph 1:13,14)}.

After these spring feasts, (which pointed forward to His first coming) there is a considerable period before the autumn or fall feasts begin. This is spiritually symbolic of the present church age. The spring feasts of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection together with the coming of the Holy Spirit have occurred, and the remaining three point forward to the events that will happen at the end times.

* The Feast of Trumpets.  A one-day feast during September signalled by the blowing of trumpets (Lev 23:23-25). Although trumpets were blown every new moon, on this day they sounded all day long (Ps 81:3).  The trumpet blasts were a wake-up call, signaling the end of the agricultural season and that they were about to enter a sacred season – a reckoning with the sins of the people on the Day of Atonement. {This signifies the Rapture, which will be heralded by “the trumpet of God” when all true believers will be taken by the Lord from the earth (1 Cor 15:52; 1 Thes 4:13-16)}.

* Ten days later is The Day Atonement (Yom Kippur), a one-day solemn observance of repentance and fasting (Lev 23:26-32).  This was the only day each year when the high priest entered the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle (or temple) to sprinkle sacrificial blood on the mercy seat – the cover of the ark. The removal of sin from the people restored the nation to fellowship with God. {It is believed that during this time God will again turn His attention to the Jewish people after “the full number of Gentiles has come in, and…all Israel will be saved” (Rom 11:25,26). The Jews who survive the tribulation will receive Christ as their Messiah and come into real relationship with Him}.

* Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) – also called the Feast of Ingathering, and Feast of Booths (Lev 23:33-43). A seven day event or celebration (15 days after the Feast of Trumpets) reminding the Jews of their tent dwelling days and God’s provision and protection in the wilderness.  It coincided with the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem (2 Chr 5:3). {It is believed this points forward to the Lord’s promise that He will once again ‘tabernacle’ or live with His people in the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:9-27)}.

Later the Jews added the Feast of Purim celebrating their remarkable deliverance from annihilation (Est 9:18-32), and the Feast of Dedication (also called the Feast of Lights), which following a period of desecration, celebrated the recovery, cleansing, and rededication of the temple to God in 164 BC (Jn 10:22). 

See also: celebrations, end times, Judaism, Passover, Pentecost, symbols, trumpets (feast of).