The Feasts are a Coded Timeline for Mankind
Each Feast Points to a Major Event in History
Each Feast Points to Christ
Many timelines are presented on the media. But Israel’s seven annual feasts describe the most significant events in history. Besides being ceremonial for the fledgling nation of Israel (‘the children of Israel’), they are highly symbolic. They contain a coded message for all mankind. Although ancient Israel didn’t realise it, the feasts point to Christ, the true Messiah, and show prophetically God’s complete plan or timeline over history, link, link. They describe:
1. the coming of the true Messiah, the Lamb of God
2. the redemption of mankind through the sinless Messiah
3. the church of the Messiah, symbolically between two feasts
4. the judgement of all mankind by the Messiah
5. the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth by the Messiah
God’s Feasts as described to Moses
These are specific times in the Jewish year which are set apart to Elohim (God) in order to read and understand His laws and then apply them in their lives. So today’s Jewish festivals are really feasts of the LORD (Leviticus 23:2) – God’s feasts. They are found, in order of their seasonal observance, in Leviticus 23:
- Pesach (Passover), Mar-Apr
- Feast of Unleavened Bread, Mar-Apr
- Feast of First Fruits, Mar-Apr, May-June
- Feast of Weeks (Shavuot or Pentecost), May-June
- Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), Sept-Oct
- Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), Sept-Oct
- Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot or Feast of Booths), Sept-Oct
These feasts or holy convocations (sacred assemblies) are held during certain months of the Hebrew calendar, which starts with the first month of the year, Nissan (March-April) and ends with the 12th month of the year, Adar (February-March).
However, the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah (‘head of the year’) is in Tishri, the seventh month, and that is when the year number is increased. Each month begins with a new moon (a thin crescent), growing to a full moon in the middle of the month and waning towards the end of the month (a cycle of approximately 29.5 days).
Spiritual Significance of Feasts
Jews believe major events in history are marked by the times of their feasts. For example, they commemorate the “birthday of the world,” the day of the creation of Adam and Eve, at Rosh Hashanah. God’s feasts are also significant because they can be times when portals to the spiritual realm are opened. They are times when visitations from God to His people may occur. The Yom Kippur war of 1973 is an example. Here, Israel was taken off-guard and was greatly out-numbered. But God intervened to give them victory in less than three weeks.
Blood moons are also important to Israel and are often marked by a feast. God says that in the last days . . .
“I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord” (Acts 2:19-20).
For example, there was a blood moon on April 15, 2014, during the feast of Passover. There was another on October 8 of the same year during the Feast of Tabernacles. Two more blood moons occurred in the year 2015, on April 4 during Passover and on Sept. 28 during Tabernacles.
The Coded Timeline
Although not immediately apparent, the seven feasts describe, in coded form, God’s timeline up to and including the Millennial age. They even hint at the New Heaven and New Earth described in Revelation. Recall that seven in scripture is the number of ‘completion’. The timeline is complete. Some of these feasts are to be held as ‘statutes for ever’, throughout all generations for all time, link. For example, the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:41) is a statute for ever and goes on into the Millennial Age (Zechariah 14:16).
God told Moses to introduce the seven feasts of the LORD like this:
Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: “The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts”. (Leviticus 23:2, NKJV)
Here, the Hebrew term for “feasts” is “mow’ed” (Strong’s H4150), meaning “a set time”. The NASB Bible version translates mow’ed as “appointed times”. Clearly, the timing of each feast is important and appears to be part of a timeline for mankind.
The first four feasts, the Spring feasts (Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits and the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost – the birth of the church) have been fulfilled. The last three feasts, the Fall feasts (Trumpets, Day of Atonement and Tabernacles) will be fulfilled in the foreseeable future. The Feast of Tabernacles takes mankind into the Millennial Age.
Many see the ‘church age’ falling between the Spring and Fall feasts – an age which appears to be rapidly drawing to a close, link, link. At the same time, rebellious and scattered Israel will be grafted back into her own “olive tree” – a tree with roots in Christ (Romans 11).
Each Feast Points to Christ
Let’s examine each feast in its historical and prophetic contexts
HISTORICAL CONTEXT – AS FOLLOWED BY ISRAEL: This feast is the first of seven feasts. It remembers the last plague in Egypt when the angel of death “passed over” the children of Israel who applied the blood of the sacrificed lamb to their doors (Exodus 12:13). It also remembers the setting free of the Israelites in Egypt from the bitterness of slavery. Jesus regularly observed the Passover by going to Jerusalem with his disciples.
In the days of the Temple the Passover lambs were sacrificed in the afternoon of Nissan 14 (Lev 23.5) and the Passover itself commenced on Nissan 15. The lamb was roasted whole (no bone was to be broken) and eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.
PROPHETIC CONTEXT – ITS RELEVANCE TODAY: Today the Passover meal or Seder is traditionally eaten around sundown of Nissan 14 and into the early hours of Nissan 15. For believers in Christ it symbolizes the freedom they receive from bondage to sin when they accept forgiveness through the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross. Jesus, who is sinless, and died without a bone being broken, is the believer’s Passover Lamb (John 8:36). Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb of God, allows God’s judgment for sin to pass over us.
2. UNLEAVENED BREAD
HISTORICAL CONTEXT – AS FOLLOWED BY ISRAEL: The Feast of Unleavened Bread is closely linked to Passover and follows the next night after the Passover, on the 15th day of Nissan (Leviticus 23:6). The feast lasts seven days (15-21 Nissan). During the feast only unleavened bread is eaten. Unleavened bread has no yeast (or leaven), which is symbolic of sin in the scriptures. This reminds Jews of the time when they came out of Egypt in haste, with no time for the leaven to make it rise (Deuteronomy 16:3).
PROPHETIC CONTEXT – ITS RELEVANCE TODAY: Leaven is a symbol of spreading sin. Just one spore of leaven (yeast) spreads throughout the dough and rising bread is actually a natural process of decay. Yeast sours bread and once incorporated, yeast becomes an inseparable part of the bread. The same is true for sin’s effect on our lives. The Jews were constantly sacrificing unblemished animals to temporarily atone for sin. Prophetically, unleavened bread represents Jesus’ sinless life. He is the only perfect sacrifice and He alone offers permanent atonement.
3. FIRST FRUITS
HISTORICAL CONTEXT – AS FOLLOWED BY ISRAEL: The Feast of First Fruits is one of three Jewish harvest feasts to thank and honour God for all he provided. It follows in April after the Feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread and it is a ‘statute forever’. It looked to the reaping of the harvest that God promised Israel as they were entering the Promised Land, the first fruits being the first part of the harvest.
Note the timing: the priests sacrificed Passover lambs on the 14th day of the month of Nissan, and the first day of Passover was the 15th. The priest used to ‘wave the sheaf of the first fruits before the Lord on the day after the Sabbath’ (Leviticus 23:11). Orthodox Judaism takes this to be the day following the first High Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, that is, Nissan 16. So the Feast of First Fruits was celebrated the third day, the 16th of Nissan. Although they didn’t know it at the time, the children of Israel were celebrating what would become a very important day.
PROPHETIC CONTEXT – ITS RELEVANCE TODAY: This “third day” celebration was the same day that Jesus resurrected from the dead; He rose the third day (1 Corinthians 15:4). The apostle Paul refers to Jesus as the first fruits of the dead. He represents the first of the great harvest of souls that will resurrect to eternal life because of the new covenant in his blood (Luke 22:20).
Now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:20)
4. THE FEAST OF WEEKS (SHAVU’OT or PENTECOST)
HISTORICAL CONTEXT – AS FOLLOWED BY ISRAEL: This feast is named after the instruction to ‘count … from the day after the Sabbath … seven Sabbaths’ (Leviticus 23:15). This implies count 50 days from the Sabbath. The Sabbath here is traditionally taken to be Nissan 15, the special Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, link, so we count 50 days starting with Nissan 16 as day 1. This brings us to a Sunday in the month of Sivan (May/June), (see calendar). So Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, always falls on a Sunday, link.
Why 50 days? It is a commemoration of the giving of the Law (the Torah) at Sinai 50 days after crossing the Red Sea.
PROPHETIC CONTEXT – ITS RELEVANCE TODAY: For believers in Christ, Pentecost (meaning `50 days’) celebrates the giving of the Holy Spirit, the birth of the church, and the beginning of the harvest (about 3,000 souls, Acts 2:41). So the Jewish Shavu’ot resembles the Christian Pentecost; both are concerned with the giving of God’s Law, but today God’s Law is written on the hearts of all who believe in Christ (Romans 2:15).
Many believe that between the first four feasts and the last three feasts there is the so-called ‘church age’ or ‘age of grace’, which is rapidly drawing to a close. So the last three feasts (Trumpets, Day of Atonement and Tabernacles) relate to the near future. Some believe that the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles (day eight) could offer the billions who have died without knowing Christ an opportunity for repentance.
5. THE FEAST OF TRUMPETS
HISTORICAL CONTEXT – AS FOLLOWED BY ISRAEL: This is one of three feasts in the seventh month completing the yearly cycle of sacrifices and harvests. This is a Sabbath rest on the first day of the the seventh month (Tishri, September/October).
Ancient Israel understood that trumpets were used as a way of announcing special, very important messages (Numbers 10:1-10). So it is a time for the ‘blowing of trumpets’ (Leviticus 23:23-25, Numbers 29:1,2), a time when the shofar (a ram’s-horn trumpet) is sounded in synagogues. Tishri 1 is observed by the public reading of the scriptures, link, a time for reminding Jews of the coming of their King (Isaiah 60-61).
Today, Tishri 1-2 is celebrated as the Jewish New Year or Rosh Hashanah (‘Head of the Year’) which relates primarily to the agricultural cycle and the beginning of a new harvest year.
PROPHETIC CONTEXT – ITS RELEVANCE TODAY: In the New Testament, Jesus reveals that before His return to the earth there will be the blowing of seven trumpets, announcing progressive stages of the downfall and overthrow of this world’s kingdoms. This ends with the return of Christ to take possession of the earth. Jesus starts His return at the last i.e. seventh trumpet (1 Corinthians 15:52, Revelation 8:2, 11:15). For believers, the sounding of trumpets foresees the trumpet of God at the first resurrection, when they are raised to meet Christ in the air at the end of this age (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
6. THE DAY OF ATONEMENT (YOM KIPPUR)
HISTORICAL CONTEXT – AS FOLLOWED BY ISRAEL: For rebellious and scattered Israel the Day of Atonement pointed to the final judgment that is to come. So during this time they sought forgiveness (atonement) for their sins over the year.
To this end, on the tenth day of the seventh month the priest made atonement for the people of Israel (Leviticus 16:29,30). This was a communal cleansing before the LORD from all sins. It was a day of humility and repentance to God, a time for Israel to get their hearts, consciences and lives right before Him. It was a day “to afflict one’s soul” (Leviticus: 23:27) – a day of fasting (Acts 27:9) and abstaining from work and other activities so as to focus solely on God and His grace. By denying one’s flesh, one learns to distinguish what is most important and what is secondary in life.
PROPHETIC CONTEXT – ITS RELEVANCE TODAY: In contrast to communal atonement through a priest, today each follower of Jesus finds forgiveness in His atoning work on the cross. Christ was the perfect (sinless) Passover lamb offering release of mankind from judgment:
He [Christ], having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God (Hebrews 10:12)
In the Yom Kippur War of October 1973 an Arab coalition led by Egypt and Syria launched a joint surprise attack against Israel whilst many Israelis were at home honouring Yom Kippur. So Israel was unprepared and suffered many losses, but through God’s miracles the invasion was defeated in under three weeks. God honoured the keeping of His special day.
Biblically, the Day of Atonement is a ‘statute for ever’ (Leviticus 23:31) and so it extends into the Millennium (Zechariah 14:21). Whilst Christ’s sacrifice was for all and for all time, it appears that sinful man living close to Christ still needs to recognise his sinful nature, even in the Millennium!
The Day of Atonement can be related to the future binding of Satan in Revelation 20:1-3, link. This is seen in the ceremony of the two goats (Leviticus 16:8-10). The first of the goats is killed, symbolizing Christ’s future atoning sacrifice for the sins of all humanity (Hebrews 9:12). The second goat, the Azazel goat (or scapegoat) had all the blame for the deception and sins of Israel placed upon its head, before being banished into the wilderness (Leviticus 16:20-22,26) – an uninhabited and spiritually dark place, link. So the banishing of the goat symbolizes the future binding of Satan such that he cannot deceive the nations during the Millennium.
7. THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES (SUKKOT)
HISTORICAL CONTEXT – AS FOLLOWED BY ISRAEL: For Israelites, Tabernacles is a seven day feast of joy and celebration following the autumn harvest (Leviticus 23:34). The feast commemorates the transition of the Jewish people from bondage in Egypt to sovereignty in the Land of Israel; from nomadic life in the desert (living in temporary ‘booths’ or ‘Sukkahs’) to permanence in the Promised Land; from oblivion to deliverance. Throughout all this, the Lord himself was with the Israelites in the desert, in a tented temple called the tabernacle.
PROPHETIC CONTEXT – ITS RELEVANCE TODAY: for Israelite and Gentile alike, the feast points to the Millennial age when Christ reigns from Jerusalem as King over all the earth (Zechariah 14:9). Christ literally dwells (tabernacles) with mankind from His temple in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 43:7) and is worshipped there year on year (Zechariah 14:16).
THE EIGTH DAY: Note that the seven day Feast of Tabernacles is followed by an eighth day (Leviticus 23:34,39). Recall that 8 in scripture means “new beginning“. So the feast also points to God’s plan following the Millennium. It points to the new heavens and the new earth where God again dwells with mankind (Revelation 21:3):
And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying: “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He shall dwell with them, and they shall be His people” (Revelation 21:3)
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38)
Was this call limited to the Jews some 2,000 years ago? Or was it also a veiled reference to Christ’s call to the resurrected billions (Revelation 20:5) who died never having heard of Him. Remember, God is just and wants all people to come to Him through Christ (1 Timothy 2:3-4)
So does the eighth day in the timeline (Figure 1) give an opportunity at the great white throne judgement for someone to acknowledge Jesus as Lord even though they died not knowing Him? Is this the very last of the good harvest of souls, the last of the firstfruits? Remember, the Feast of Tabernacles (the last Fall feast) celebrates the Autumn harvest – the end of the good harvest.
Fig.1: The Seven Feasts of the Jewish Calendar. Click image to enlarge
The first four feasts have been fulfilled
1. PASSOVER: Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb of God, allows God’s judgment for sin to pass over believers
2. UNLEAVENED BREAD: unleavened bread represents Jesus’ sinless life; He is the only perfect sacrifice
3. FIRST FRUITS: Jesus as the first fruits of the dead – the first of the great harvest of resurrected mankind
4. FEAST OF WEEKS (Pentecost): Jesus sends the Holy Spirit, resulting in the birth of the church
THE CHURCH AGE
5. FEAST OF TRUMPETS: Jesus is returning for His church at the end of this age – the first resurrection
6. DAY OF ATONEMENT: Jesus’ perfect sacrifice atones today for all who trust in Him (Jew or Gentile)
7. FEAST OF TABERNACLES: Jesus will dwell with mankind in the Millennium, and in the new earth