Fulfilments of Leviticus 23 Festivals :: By Gene Lawley

It may seem rather distant in our range of consideration, but the summary of all of the sacrifices and statutes of the Old Testament is fulfilled in Christ. Perhaps it can be summed up in Paul’s declaration in Galatians 2:21: “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”

The commandments of God actually reveal the morality of His person. That is, if we are to be like Him, then we are to obey and take up those commandments as our way of life. And the very image of God, the Father, is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. These fulfilments are right in step with the conclusion of all things in Christ.

That first “festival” in Leviticus 23, surprisingly, is the Sabbath. It is the fourth commandment of the ten and is the first of the ten calling for a positive response from mankind. The first three are “don’t do” commands. It is a command to “take a rest” and be refreshed in the Lord.

In Luke 6, it is told that Jesus and His disciples were going through a grain field, and the disciples were eating of the grains of the field. The scribes and Pharisees took offense because it was the Sabbath and against its rules, as they had interpreted them. Thus, they accused Jesus of allowing them to do that terrible thing. Jesus closed the criticism with this reply: “The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath” (Luke 6:5).

In Matthew 11:28-30, we see the invitation of Jesus to come to Him for rest: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Eventually, the trail of faith will lead a believer to Hebrews 4:10:

“For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.”

It is the rest of faith in the completeness of Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath.

The seven feasts then named after this one are all together in one annual pattern. If you watch closely, you will see that those seven feasts or festivals are telling the story of the high points of the Christian era, the age of the church. They were placed on the Jewish calendar for each year by the direction of God to Moses. But they are Christian events portrayed, not Jewish. They are called convocations in Leviticus 23, which means “rehearsals” for the actual coming events.

The first one is the Feast of Passover, remembered by the Jews as the mark of their deliverance from the bondage of Egypt. For the Christian, it marks the death of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, on the cross. That is the means of deliverance of sinners from that bondage. Once His blood, by faith, is spread on the doorposts of his heart, man is delivered from the bondage of sin. It is celebrated on the Gentile calendar about the middle of March each year.

The second festival is called the Feast of Unleavened Bread and follows the Passover immediately. It depicts, as unleavened bread suggests, death in the grave. There is an interesting development in the Jewish practice here, for after Passover, there is a seven-day period of unleavened bread, not two days. Why is that, we may ask.

It seems to be answered by the absence of that third feast, the Feast of First Fruits, which depicts the resurrection of Christ. In Jewish thinking, there is no resurrection of Christ because they are not looking for a Messiah who has nail holes in His hands.

The Jewish calendar goes next to the Feast of Weeks, called Pentecost, the festival of the early harvest. We know what happened at Pentecost. A major Christian era event took place, the entry of the Holy Spirit into the lives of believers in Christ. Just as 1 Corinthians 6:17 says, “But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him,” it became a reality, as God had promised, but not for the Judeo faith. This feast occurs about mid-May into early June.

There is a long period of absence for any of the remaining three feasts until fall time, for the next feast is called the Feast of Trumpets and depicts the ending harvest in the agricultural season. Then comes the time of ingathering. In John 4:35, Jesus said, “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!”

The time of the year was after Pentecost, and normal growth time for fruit and crops was at hand, not a harvest. But Jesus is talking about the harvest of the Great Commission that He was to establish, to go into all the world and spread the gospel. This season of sowing and reaping for a future ingathering has been long, allowing the gospel to reach many tongues, tribes and nations.

At the time of the fall harvest from the fields, the festival called the Feast of Trumpets is celebrated. The Jewish event is seen as the beginning of a time of fasting and repentance until the ten days to the Feast of Atonement arrives. It is a time of spiritual harvesting of redeemed souls into the presence of the Savior, the Rapture of the church. Just as Paul details it in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, it will come to pass: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

What a controversial prophetic declaration as for its reality and timing! This feast has received a nod of recognition over the centuries, then they pass on to “really learn when the Lord is going to return.” The Feast of Trumpets is a two-day event, and Jesus said, “No one knows the day or the hour of His coming.” Neither does anyone know what year it will happen. However, many signs point to the times and seasons when that Day will occur. The Jewish recognition of it does not present the highlight it is in the Christian era, where it is a major event, obviously. The harvest of the fruit of the Great Commission is this event of the Christian age of grace. It is not like the Holy One to remove this feast from His set pattern.

Other references of it as the time of the Rapture are John 11:25-26; Luke 21:28 and its surrounding context; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7; 1 Corinthians 15:50-53; and Revelation 4:1-4. (I list these only because of lack of space for the article.)

The sixth feast is called the Feast of Atonement and is remembered by the Jews as a time for fasting and repentance, again, but not with any reference, apparently, to One who atones for their sin. It is a feast that is first in the seven years of tribulation, the “time of Jacob’s trouble,” according to Jeremiah 30:7. It is the time of the 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy in Daniel 9 of God’s punishment of the Jews for their rebellion.

In Zechariah 12:10 is told how the Jewish people turn to Christ as their true Messiah, for it is apparent that their fascination with the Antichrist must have ended when he shuts down their temple worship and declares himself God halfway through the seven years.

Zechariah wrote this: “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.”

Why their fascination with the Antichrist? According to Daniel 9:26-27, he is the one who confirms a peace covenant for them and authorizes the rebuilding of their temple, which has not existed since 70 A.D. His deception was enhanced by the fact that he did not have nail holes in his hands, as did the one the Christians claimed.

Factoring in the anointment of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists in Revelation 7 and their ministry that reaches into every tribe, tongue and nation in the world, we know that the Jews will have found their true Savior. Still, two-thirds of the Jews are to be killed, and one-third will be protected from Satan’s wrath, according to Zechariah 13:8 and Revelation 12:14-15. Are these, then, the remaining mortals who will inhabit the millennium to rebuild the earth’s population?

The final feast, called the Feast of Tabernacles, depicts the return of Christ to the earth to dwell in it. Just as John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” at His first advent, He comes to live among us as King of Kings and Lord of Lords just as Revelation 19:15-16 declares.

Zechariah also describes the Second Coming of Jesus in different details that are quite impressive. His writings in Zechariah 14 follow chronologically after those quotations above regarding God’s regained relationship with the Jews, reported in chapters 12-13. Chapter 14 starts off with this in verse 1: “Behold, the day of the Lord is coming,” then in verse 4, he writes this:

“And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley. Half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south.”

This final chapter of Zechariah relates much of what happens during those thousand years when Jesus reigns on earth. It is not hard to understand when the millennium begins and ends. It begins when Jesus returns to the earth at His Second Coming, and He makes His presence known, as related above.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). And so, the festivals of the Lord of Israel are fulfilled.

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