Like historical markers along the Interstate Highway System in America, prophetic markers were set in place when God gave Moses the laws of Leviticus centuries ago, even before they were to appear. They are found in Leviticus 23, seven of them; and they begin, strangely enough, when Christ was crucified. That was centuries after God directed Moses to put them on their calendar for recognition and celebration every year. They begin with the death of Christ and end with the coming of His living presence on earth as King of Kings, ruling from the throne of David in Jerusalem. Notice, if you will, that none of them are celebrations of Jewish events. That is why I call them “markers along the narrow road” in contrast to that “broad road of destruction on which many are traveling” and not that of the gospel of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.
Usually a festival day or a day of memorial is named after an event happens, that is, in man’s calendar. Days like Memorial Day, Independence Day, or Labor Day in a secular calendar. Even religious days are there—Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and Resurrection Day, although the latter is called Easter in secular calendars. The Jewish people also have national holidays to celebrate past victories over their enemies, such as the Feast of Purim and the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah).
However, it was different when God directed Moses to record seven festivals or feast days as recorded in Leviticus 23. In the Jewish tradition, festivals are known as “Divine Appointments,” and their celebrations are defined as “convocations,” or “rehearsals.” Think about that as you think about the fact that God listed those days in His Word as directives for Jewish observance every year thereafter. The conclusion, then, is that the Jews were to “rehearse” a like event in its fulfillment in some future year.
Lest the reader think I have meant the full scale of the future, those seven feasts tell us the high points of God’s plan for salvation and restoration of the Jewish people and the redemption of Gentiles according to His desire to “save out of the Gentiles a people for His name.”
Those seven festivals or feasts that were placed on the Jewish calendar every year were the feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Weeks, Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles. Those are their short names, and of course, they have their Jewish names.
The first four are in the spring months from mid-March to early June, in our secular calendar, but according to the phases of the moon on the Jewish calendar. The final three feasts are scheduled in early fall to mid-fall, usually early September to mid-October. A Jewish calendar will show those respective months by name.
How are these, then, a telling of the future, and what part of the future is being told today?
The meaning of them being called “convocations” which are “rehearsed” gives us a clue. They are future events for which God had made an Appointed Time, and has met it for those already fulfilled in the first century, the first four. The Passover was fulfilled when Jesus was crucified and His blood was shed for the sins of all mankind, a gift ready to be accepted by those who want salvation. The pardon is there, but it is not effective unless a person chooses to accept that provision in their behalf (see Romans 5:18 and its related context).
A remembrance of their escape from the bondage of Egypt has been given the name “Passover” to that event. God directed that the blood of a lamb be spread over the door posts of their houses so the Death Angel would “pass over” that home and any of the first-born would be saved. It gives meaning to that first feast’s name. However, this feast is depicting a future even when Jesus Christ, the Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7) would shed His blood so that believers would be saved, that is, “passed over” when judgment day comes.
Jesus died, as the Passover Lamb, and for three days and three nights He was in death, as Unleavened Bread, and the third day He was resurrected, the third feast day on the calendar.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread portrays the death of the Son of Man, as unleavened bread has no “life” or fluff, as we like bread to be. Then, the third feast, the Feast of First Fruits, recognizes the resurrection of Christ as the first fruit of the resurrection. Recall the account in Matthew’s record of His resurrection, telling that after His resurrection, some believers who had died were seen walking around in Jerusalem. (It was not until Jesus had been resurrected, as the first fruit of the resurrection, that others demonstrated the power of His resurrection (see Romans 9:11).
Then, fifty days later, the fourth feast, Pentecost, recognized the first harvest, the early harvest of barley. It was fulfilled when the first harvest of redemption happened when the Holy Spirit came upon that little band of believers praying and waiting in that Upper Room. Acts 2 tells of it in dramatic detail, when Peter preached a powerful sermon that showed none of his past uncertainty, and three thousand or more people received Christ’s offer of redemption and were also filled with the Holy Spirit. That transformation, spoken of by the prophet Joel, is since then and now the mark of distinction for believers in Christ over any other offer of the way to heaven, as many false teachers are proclaiming.
As far as those feasts not yet happening in fulfillment are concerned, there has been a long time of waiting for God’s “Appointed Time” for them. It is an honest question to be asking, and God answers it in 2 Peter 3 when scoffers in the last days question, “Where is the promise of His coming?” In the verses following that abrasive question, God explains that He has been patient and long-suffering for the reason that He “does not desire that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Sometimes I have wondered, also, why some people who deny God with a great deal of vengeance yet live long lives. It seems that God has their final answer in His control, and it is His mercy for them to have a long life on this side of the veil, because that is all they will ever have.
Then follows an undetermined period of time for a long harvest-time season spoken of by Jesus in John 4:35. “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months until the harvest? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! and then comes the harvest?’”
His audience was concerned with the harvest of agriculture products, but Jesus directed them to the harvest of unsaved people who were to hear the gospel over these centuries since He uttered those words.
Just as Jesus was ready for His ascension into heaven after those forty days with those few believers, they asked Him, “Lord will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” His answer was, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
In other words, “Let the harvest begin and continue until I come.”
(Part 2 will continue with an analysis of those three final feasts.)
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