Amazing Truths Hidden in Israeli Feasts :: By Gene Lawley

The seven feasts of the Lord, which God had Moses put on the Jewish calendar for celebration year after year, turned out to be an amazing arrangement for the Jews to perform throughout the centuries. It is especially remarkable when the feasts are called convocations, meaning rehearsals of the festival’s purpose and fulfillment.

What about that? That is the amazing thing that has happened over these centuries. The Jews were rehearsing events of the Christian era that were yet to come. That is the crux of this article, to look at those aspects of the feasts.

The first feast, Passover, is remembered by the Jews of their exodus from Egypt, and even so, the Scriptures constantly reminded them of that departure with Moses’ leadership. But it is the first of the three-part gospel that began the Christian era or age. The other two are Unleavened Bread and First Fruits. Leviticus 23 introduces them like this:

“These are the feasts of the Lord, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times” (Leviticus 23:4).

The next day after Passover began seven days of unleavened bread, but the first day of the seven especially pinpointed the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Then, on the third day, the Feast of First Fruits. The directions for this one are tied to the future when they enter the promised land.

Look how the feasts, now and forward, follow the seasonal calendar. But more importantly, compare these three feasts with the identification the Apostle Paul made of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4:

“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”

The Scriptures Paul had were Old Testament scrolls, yet the prophecies are there. See Psalm 16:10 and Isaiah 53. Jesus compared His three days and nights with Jonah’s experience in the belly of the great fish, saying, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40).

All three of those first feasts are not recognized by the Jews as Christian era events, but they have been celebrating them unknowingly for many centuries. It is also interesting how the Lord relates that third feast to their coming into the promised land, just as the new believer of the gospel enters “the promised land of salvation and peace with God.”

The next feast is the Feast of Weeks, also called Pentecost, but celebrated as the “early harvest festival.” It occurs between mid-May and mid-June at the time of the barley harvest. The Jews have related it to their seasonal harvesting of crops, but there are four major events that occurred on that feast day, as reported by Luke in Acts 2 and told in prophecy by Joel in Joel 2.

In a recent article, I wrote of those four major events of the Christian era. They are 1) the prophesied indwelling of the Holy Spirit in each believer’s life; 2) the launching of the new church based on Peter’s testimony of the identity of Christ in Matthew 16:16: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” 3) the introduction of the Great Commission to take the gospel to the ends of the earth; 4) the beginning of God’s set-aside of the Jews while He takes out of the Gentiles a people for His name (Romans 11:25).

Again, is it not amazing that the Jews would have been celebrating those Christian events for centuries unknowingly? Truly remarkable! But we are not finished with this marvelous turn of events!

Just as the variable agriculture season moves through the year to the fall harvest, there is no other of the seven festivals until the late harvest, which is set for the first two days in the seventh month of Tishrei, the beginning of the Jewish civil year. It has a couple of names, such as Rosh Hashanah (Head of the Year) and Yom Teru’ah (Feast of Trumpets). The directions for its celebration are told in Leviticus 23:24-25, saying, “In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord.”

Further directions are given in Numbers 29:1b-6, after repeating the setting aside of the day as special to the Lord, a holy convocation:

“For you it is a day of blowing the trumpets. You shall offer a burnt offering as a sweet aroma to the Lord: one young bull, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year, without blemish. Their grain offering shall be fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of an ephah for the bull, two-tenths for the ram, and one-tenth for each of the seven lambs; also one kid of the goats as a sin offering, to make atonement for you; besides the burnt offering with its grain offering for the New Moon, the regular burnt offering with its grain offering, and their drink offerings, according to their ordinance, as a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the Lord.”

Not much is added except the New Moon starts the day, and more offerings are added. But what about the late harvest? Jesus seems to point to that matter when He spoke of the harvest time coming, in John 4:35: “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!”

Four months until harvest—June, July, August, September. Right on time for the Feast of Trumpets. Jesus was talking about a harvest of redeemed souls, but the Jews are given to unleavened bread and repentance, pointing to the next feast that also centered on fasting in sackcloth and ashes, and repentance in readiness for the Feast of Atonement next.

This feast follows the Feast of Trumpets, on the tenth day after the beginning of Rosh Hashanah. God directed Moses like this: “Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord” (Leviticus 23:26-27).

Note the directive, “You shall afflict your souls,” and again, calling it a convocation, defined as a rehearsal in their culture. A great sense of sorrow for their sins was to be in mind. The religious Jews seemed to have turned fully to their animal sacrifices and grain offerings for their atonement for sins, but the rehearsal was for the atonement provided by the coming Messiah. Zechariah 12:10 actually foretells this eventual recognition of Jesus Christ as their true Messiah: “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.”

The setting aside of Israel while the Lord “takes out of the Gentiles a people for His name” (Romans 11:25) ends with this discovery by Israel. For all these centuries, Jews have been looking for a Messiah who does not have nail holes in His hands, but for one who comes to them as a king of deliverance, just as their final question to Jesus at His ascension: “Lord, will you restore the kingdom to Israel at this time?” (Acts 1:6).

According to Daniel 9:27, one who seems to befriend Israel shows up and provides for seven years of peace in a covenant and then allows them to rebuild their temple. He does not have nail holes in his hands, and his deception takes them into looking to him, the Antichrist, as their long-awaited Messiah. Not so, for halfway through the seven years, he steps in and cancels their temple activities, declares himself as God, and demands their worship of him as God.

In that context of Daniel 9:27, this action of the Antichrist is called the “abomination of desolation” and is shown in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 as a coming event in end-time prophecy fulfillments. It has not happened yet.

Finally, the seventh festival comes fifteen days later, called the Feast of Tabernacles or the Feast of Booths by reference to the manner of its celebration.

In that Leviticus 23 context, there is no mention of God’s dwelling with mankind, but as John writes his gospel record of this eternal One coming into the world as the Living Word, he notes in John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” His identity with mankind became visible, and the fulfillment of that in this seventh celebration completes seven high points of the Christian era.

Revelation 19 tells of Christ’s Second Coming with His saints in an evil-conquering mode that smashes the Antichrist, the false prophet – and Satan himself for a thousand years.

Zechariah 14:4 tells us of an actual physical return of Christ to the earth at the time of His Second Coming. It says Jesus will appear on the Mount of Olives, planting His feet there, and that mountain will split in two halves, one side moving north and the opposite side moving south.

It likewise is astounding that the Preterists, who believe all prophecy was fulfilled at the 70 A.D. destruction of Jerusalem and the new temple, cannot explain how the Second Coming has been hidden for centuries when this passage in Zechariah 14:4 tells of such massive physical things happening at the time of His coming again. It proves that false doctrines are hard to reject once embedded in one’s mind.

Believers have been told by well-meaning Bible teachers, no doubt, that Jesus could come at any time, even “this afternoon.” But a careful search of the whole counsel of God will reveal that the Lord has never made a promise that He did not intend to keep. That is the simple meaning of Solomon’s declaration in Proverbs 9:10b, “And knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” That knowledge of the Holy One turns us to all of His attributes and that God will never contradict Himself nor change His mind on His eternal plan. However, there is an Appointed Day which will come “as a thief in the night” and in the twinkling of an eye for its suddenness.

Therefore, watch for the signs of the times. Jesus said, in Luke 21:28, “When these things begin to happen, look up, for your redemption draws near.” Those things are those turbulent upheavals in the physical world, but also the blooming of the fig tree (verse 29), a parable telling of the restoration of Israel to its land and the establishing of Israel’s sovereign statehood among the nations.

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