The Seven Feasts of the Lord
The story of Gods great plan of salvation is told by the Feasts of the Lord, the only holidays (holy-days) which were instituted by the command of the Lord God, rather than by the will and design of men.
Each feast carries with it a three-fold fulfillment in the plan of God. First, there is the historical fulfillment in the life of the nation of Israel that the feast commemorates (Exodus 12:14). Second, there is a present day fulfillment in the life of Christians and of the church of God (1 Corinthians 10:11). Third, there is a future and final fulfillment to be realized in the coming Kingdom of God, as foretold by the prophets (Ephesians 1:3-14).
The Feasts of the Lord are outlined in Leviticus 23.
See Leviticus 23:1-3. The sabbath is a weekly day of rest on the seventh day, which is Saturday. The historical fulfillment of this feast was at Gods resting from His work of the creation of the world (Exodus 20.11), and keeping it reminds us that God created us and that we owe worship and service to Him. Its present day fulfillment is the rest Gods people have from their works (Hebrews 4:9-11), and its future fulfillment is our eternal rest in the kingdom of God (Revelation 14:13).
The remaining seven holy days of the Lord are annual holidays, and are properly known as the seven feasts of the Lord.
Feast of the Passover
See Leviticus 23:4-5. The Passover is an annual meal eaten in the evening of the 14th day of the first month of the Hebrew sacred calendar, which commemorates the deliverance of Israel from the destroyer and the land of Egypt (Exodus 12). Its present day fulfillment is that God has ransomed us from the kingdom of darkness by the blood of Jesus, Gods sinless Passover Lamb. It is interesting to note that Jesus fulfilled this spring holiday when he was crucified on the cross on the day of Passover, at twilight (John 19). Its future fulfillment is a mystery to me, but the proof that there remains a future fulfillment is found in Luke 22:15-16.
Feast of Unleavened Bread
See Leviticus 23:6-8. Unleavened Bread is an annual week-long feast immediately following Passover, beginning on the 15th day of the first month and continuing for seven days. Its historical fulfillment was the removal of leaven from the homes of the congregation of Israel in preparation for their flight from Egypt and journey to the Promised Land (Exodus 12:17-20). Its present day fulfillment is that Jesus has cleansed us from sin when we received His shed blood as a sacrifice for our sins (1 John 1:7). Its future fulfillment is the abolishment of sin and its consequence, death, from the world at the end of the age (1 Corinthians 15:25-26).
Feast of Firstfruits
See Leviticus 23:9-14. Firstfruits is an annual feast always celebrated on the day after the sabbath (Sunday), which historically commemorated the arrival of new life the first spring after Israel entered the Promised Land; a sheaf of new grain was offered to the Lord before any green thing could be eaten every new agricultural year (Leviticus 23:9-14). Jesus fulfilled this spring holiday when He was raised from the dead on the morning of the Firstfruits Feast. Its present day fulfillment is that God has filled us with new life (Romans 6:4), and has made us His children (John 20:17). Its future fulfillment will be the revealing of the sons of God at the coming of the kingdom of God (Romans 8:18-19, 1 Corinthians 15:23).
Feast of Weeks
See Leviticus 23:15-22. Weeks, or Pentecost, is an annual feast always celebrated on the day after (Sunday) the seventh sabbath after the Feast of Firstfruits, and historically commemorates the harvest of the fruit of the Promised Land the first summer Israel dwelt there; loaves of bread baked with leaven and animals from the flocks were offered to the Lord (Leviticus 23:15-22). This spring holiday was fulfilled when the Holy Spirit was given to the church on the day of the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). Its present day fulfillment is that we have been sealed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). In the canning process, first a jar must be sterilized, or cleansed, of bacteria; then filled with its contents. Then it must be sealed so that no new bacteria can enter in and contaminate the clean food. This is what the Lord has done for us, in cleansing us from sin, filling us with new life, and sealing us with His Spirit. Its future fulfillment remains a mystery to me.
The preceding four feasts are celebrated in the spring every year, and look back to the first coming of Jesus the Messiah. At this His first advent, He fulfilled the meaning of the spring feasts in the plan of God on the very day the feasts were being commemorated by the Jews!
The following three feasts are celebrated in the fall every year, and look forward to the second coming of Jesus the Messiah. At His second advent, I believe He will also fulfill the meaning of the fall feasts on the very day that the feasts are being commemorated by the Jews.
Feast of Trumpets
See Leviticus 23:23-25. Trumpets, or Rosh Hashanah, is an annual feast which historically commemorated the use of trumpets for the gathering of the nation of Israel: they were used to sound an assembly, an alarm, an attack, praise to the Lord, the ascension of kings, and the Jubilee year of freedom (Exodus 17:8-16, Numbers 10). Its present day fulfillment is that believers have been gathered together into one body, the body of Christ, under the banner of our Head, Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27). Its future fulfillment looks forward to the day when the great trumpet blast will gather together the body of Christ from the ends of the earth at the coming of the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:51-54).
Day of Atonement
See Leviticus 23:26-32. Atonement, or Yom Kippur, is an annual day of fasting and repentance, wherein historically the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies, into the presence of the Lord, and make atonement for himself, the priests, and the congregation of Israel (Leviticus 16). Its present day fulfillment is that by the blood of Jesus, we have been sanctified and made a kingdom of priests unto God, with every believer able to minister to God and from God (1 Peter 2:5; see also Hebrews 9:12). Its future fulfillment looks forward to the day when Jesus our High Priest will usher us into the physical presence of God Himself (Hebrews 9).
Feast of Tabernacles
See Leviticus 23:33-34. Tabernacles, or Succoth, or Booths, is an annual week-long feast, celebrated in the seventh month, in which Israel was to dwell in tents for the duration of the feast. Its historical fulfillment was the time that Israel dwelt in tents in the wilderness, and that Gods presence dwelt in the Tent of Meeting and the Temple (Leviticus 23:42-43). It also was fulfilled historically when God clothed Himself with humanity and dwelt among men in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ (John 1:14). Its present fulfillment is that the Lord dwells in the hearts of all believers, and that a relationship with our Creator is now possible (1 John 4:13). Its future fulfillment looks forward to the day when God and man will dwell together forever at the end of the age (Revelation 21:3-4).
Origin of Easter and Christmas
Our family is endeavoring to return to a celebration of these Feasts of the Lord rather than the traditional Christian holidays of Easter and Christmas. The name Easter comes from a widespread pagan holiday honoring the Babylonian fertility goddess Astarte, also known as Ishtar. This holiday was celebrated at the spring equinox. Since God Himself instituted a holy day for the celebration of the resurrection of His Son, the Feast of Firstfruits, we are endeavoring to honor His resurrection on that day.
Our holiday of Christmas was begun as a substitute for a pagan holiday which during Roman times honored the nativity of the sun god, and was commemorated following the winter solstice, the time when the sun god was supposedly gaining in strength, as the days began to lengthen. This holiday had its roots in the pagan beliefs of several religions common at the time.
Christians Celebrating Jewish Feasts
At this point there may be panic in the minds of Christians, contemplating doing something prescribed in the law of God. Let me emphatically state that celebrating these feasts in no way purchases salvation for us. Why do we celebrate holidays, anyway? To become a citizen of a country, or to rejoice with the fellow-citizens of that country something memorable in the life of that country? Why, to rejoice with fellow-citizens, of course. We have no qualms about setting aside a day of rest and celebration to commemorate the Declaration of Independence every July 4th, or to remember the honored dead who have given their lives in service to this country every Memorial Day.
So why balk at setting aside a day of rest and celebration with fellow believers to acknowledge our creation by God every Sabbath day; our redemption by God by the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ every Passover; our cleansing from sin by God every Feast of Unleavened Bread; the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, our adoption into the family of God, and filling with new life every Feast of Firstfruits; our baptism and sealing with the Holy Spirit of God every Feast of Weeks; our gathering together into one body of Christ, and our joyful expectation of the coming day of the appearing of the Lord every Feast of Trumpets; our sanctification into a kingdom of priests to our God, and our joyful expectation of the coming day when we will be presented to the Father Himself in person by our Lord Jesus Christ every Day of Atonement; our present relationship with God made possible by His indwelling in our hearts, and our joyful expectation of the coming day when God and man will dwell together forever, never to be separated again, at every Feast of Tabernacles?
If a family were to decide to begin phasing out the celebration of pagan holidays and begin phasing in the celebration of the Feasts of the Lord, it would be easy to keep the day simple. Do nothing more than what would be done with an important national holiday: take the day off from work and school, gather together with other believers if possible, have a special meal together, spend a few minutes teaching the younger generation why the feast day is being commemorated, and in so doing teach them Gods great plan of salvation year in and year out; and worship the Lord for His grace toward men. Then pass the rest of the day in relaxation and fun with family and friends. This is not or should not be made into a return to the ritual observance of the law. But if we, out of a new heart and a new spirit, do what is pleasing to God because we are a new creation and now His children, then the law of God has been written on our hearts.
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