The Bible contains specific details about a number of feasts that were instituted by God and were to be observed by the Israelites. There are seven appointed feasts that are intended to be times for His chosen nation to meet with God. Moses was given all the instructions that the Israelites were to follow but these feasts are not just for the Israelites, they are also God’s feasts:
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. (Leviticus 23:1-2, emphasis added)
Christian’s are released from the necessity of observing these OT sabbaths, festivals and Holy days:
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17)
However, the passage above also reveals the feasts that were observed by the Jewish community were a shadow of things to come – in other words, they teach us something about future events.
The Israelites were given comprehensive instructions with regard to observing yearly feasts and appointed times. Essentially there were seven yearly feasts and we believe that they all paint a portrait of Jesus Christ either at His first coming or second coming. The number “seven” is God’s number of completeness and these feasts combine to illustrate and reveal the historical and prophetic plan of God for the redemption of mankind.
Leviticus 23 (among other passages) teach us the details of the feasts that there were to be kept as holy days on a yearly basis. The Israelites were instructed to observe these holy days and each one tells a story of God’s dealing with mankind. Many teachings in the NT describe these feasts being fulfilled by Christ and we believe they were appointed in order to point the Jewish people to their Saviour Jesus. Not only this, but we also believe that these feasts serve as yearly rehearsals for BOTH Christ’s first coming and His second coming.
We will briefly explore each of these seven feasts, beginning with the four “spring” Jewish feasts and then the final three “autumn” feasts. We hope you will see how the spring feasts all point exclusively to Christ as a pre-shadow to His first coming and were fulfilled by Him very precisely. We then describe how the fall feasts could be fulfilled by Christ with equal precision at His second coming. Whilst we cannot be certain exactly how or when they will be fulfilled with Christ’s second coming, given how literally the spring feasts were fulfilled, we have no doubt the same will be true of the autumn feasts.
For the Jewish community, Passover is observed on 14 Nisan (March or April) to commemorate the Israelites deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Details of this feast can be found in both Leviticus 23:4-5 and Exodus 12. It involved the sacrifice of a male lamb, without spot or blemish. The sacrifice of this lamb was performed in a certain way that provides a perfect template for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ:
Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: (1 Peter 1:18-19)
During the first passover, the Israelites (and gentiles) who observed this feast were spared destruction from the “angel of death” and the blood of Jesus Christ (our Passover Lamb) also rescues from eternal torment all those who are saved through Christ. The NT teaches that Christians are no longer bound by keeping this feast and that this feast was fulfilled in Christ:
Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:7-8)
Our Jesus OUR Passover Lamb article provides greater detail on the precise way that Jesus performed the role our passover lamb.
Unleavened Bread (Hag HaMatzot)
The feast of Unleavened Bread immediately follows Passover, throughout the period of 15 – 21 Nisan (March or April). A description of this feast can be found in either Leviticus 23:6-8 or Exodus 12:15-20. The days of unleavened bread were to act as a memorial of the Passover. During this feast, the Jewish community could not consume any product containing yeast (leaven), neither could they store yeast in their houses as it was seen as something impure and a polluting agent.
As with the Passover, the negative influence of leaven is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5:
Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:6-8)
Leaven here is a reference to sin. The presence of sin permeates all areas of our lives and this feast was to provide a picture of how subtle and destructive this process is. Even the smallest quantity of leaven would leaven the whole lump of bread. It is homogenous and once it is present, it is impossible to remove. Sin works in the same way for mankind – we are all affected by the presence of sin and succumb to it’s destructive presence. This is why Jesus Christ had to be sinless – no leaven was to be found in him!
Jesus body lay in the tomb during the first days of the feast of unleavened bread waiting to burst forth the resurrected life which is foreshadowed in the feast of firstfruits!
The feast of firstfruits also happens very soon after Passover and during the feast of unleavened bread on 16 Nisan (March or April) and this feast is described in Leviticus 23:9-14. The Israelites were to take a sheaf from the first-fruits of the barley harvest and present it to the priests at the temple. The priest was to “wave” the sheaf up and down acknowledging that it is a blessing from the Lord. We would suggest this is figurative of Jesus dying “down” and being resurrected “up”, thereby defeating death.
It is very important to remember the account of Jesus Christ does not end with His sacrifice on our behalf. On the day after the first “weekly” Sabbath after the passover, the Israelites were instructed to take part in the offering of “firstfruits”. This symbolically pointed forward to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead to demonstrate the complete defeat of sin and death for those in Christ Jesus. Paul makes this point to the church in Corinth:
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
What else could Jesus Christ have done to demonstrate He really is Lord of Lords and King of Kings? Not only did He take it upon Himself to die in our place – He demonstrated power over sin and death in His resurrection. What a staggering gift for those who will accept Him!
Feast of Weeks/Pentecost (Shavuot)
The Feast of Weeks is celebrated 50 days after Passover on 6 Sivan (May or June), it is a time to present an offering of new grain for the summer to the Lord as described in Leviticus 23:15-22. Deuteronomy 16:16 states all Jewish males are required to go to Jerusalem to “appear before the Lord” on the feast day. This feast has become known as Pentecost, which is Greek for “50”.
As Jesus’ death was on Passover, 50 days after all His believers were in Jerusalem is one place. This was when God out poured His Holy Spirit on His believers:
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4)
The apostle Peter confirms this was fulfilment of the prophet Joel:
But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Acts 2:16-21)
Peter followed on by saying the risen Jesus had poured out the Holy Spirit:
This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. (Acts 2:32-33)
As a result more than 3000 were baptized on this same feast day:
Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41)
Feast of Trumpets or New Year (Yom HaTeruah / Rosh HaShanah)
This feast is the first of the “fall feasts” and is observed on either the 1st or 2nd Tishri (September or October) and is detailed in Leviticus 23:23-25. Unusually, the OT gives no specific reason for this feast, but the Jews understood the blowing of trumpets to be a call to repentance in order to prepare to appear for trial before God to receive judgment.
There appears to be a strong connection between this Jewish feast and the rapture of the faithful Church that described in the NT:
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, emphasis added)
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52, emphasis added)
We believe these two passages indicate that the rapture of the Church described here could be the ultimate fulfillment of the OT feast of trumpets that will usher in a time of wrath of an unbelieving earth.
Another interesting dimension of this feast is that it is dated by the first glimmer of a new moon and because of this it can occur anytime during a 48hr period. Because of this, it is the ONLY feast day of which it is true to say that no man knows the “day nor the hour”. Of course, we cannot be dogmatic about this – however, it certainly is an interesting feast day. We do know for sure that date of the rapture of the Church cannot be dated and we are instructed not to attempt to date it.
Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)
This is the day that the high priest makes atonement for sin. It is the most holy day on the Jewish calendar held on 10 Tishri (September or October), described in Leviticus 23:26-32. Yom Kippur is the final day of the “days of repentance”, which include Rosh HaShanah. This day is the only day of the year the high priest will enter the Holy of Holies in the temple to make a sacrifice. The sacrifice is to pay for high priest’s sin and the sins of the people. Once the atonement sacrifice was complete the high priest would release a goat into the wilderness, This goat, known as the “scapegoat” carried all of Israel’s sins away. It is a day of fasting and prayer for the Jewish people.
Within the temple the Holy of Holies is separated by a veil reaching from the floor to the ceiling. When Jesus died upon the cross this veil was ripped completely in two:
And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. (Luke 23:44-46, emphasis added)
Christ entered Holy of Holies, heaven itself, as the high priest to pay for our eternal redemption, not with the blood of goats, but with His own blood:
But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. (Hebrews 9:11-28, emphasis added)
Jesus paid the final atonement for our sins:
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; (Romans 3:21-25, emphasis added)
Since 70 AD, when the temple was destroyed, the high priest can no longer make atonement for the sins of the Jewish people. It is Jesus Christ who we must all look upon to have our sins forgiven since he paid for all of us upon the cross.
Many believe it could be on this feast day in the future that Jesus’ second coming will occur. When Jesus does return is will be a day that Israel see’s Him as their Messiah and repent, and they will be forgiven:
And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. (Zechariah 12:10)
And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. (Romans 11:26-27)
Feast of Booths or Tabernacles (Sukkot)
The feast of tabernacles is a seven day festival that is celebrated from 15 – 22 Tishri (September or October). Full details of this feast can be found in Leviticus 23:33-43. The Jewish community were instructed to build and live inside booths during this time in order to remember the time when God brought the Israelites out of Egypt and the Israelites dwelled in booths. This is a very joyful time that includes singing, dancing, feasting and rejoicing and commemorates the fact that God dwelt with or “tabernacled” with Israel throughout the travels and journeys.
The most likely future fulfillment of the feast of tabernacles is in the millennial reign of Christ on earth described in Revelation 20, when Christ will literally dwell with man. We know that this feast will continue to be observed during this time:
And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the Lord will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. (Zechariah 14:16-19, emphasis added)
We feel it is possible that Jesus Christ was born during the feast of tabernacles. We know it was a feast time because there was “no room at the inn”. It would be entirely appropriate for our Saviour to be born to “tabernacle” with man during this feast:
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, emphasis added)
It was during the feast of tabernacles that Jesus spoke these great words:
In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (John 7:37-38)
The Seven Feasts
We have now had a brief look at each of the yearly feasts as stipulated in the Torah and how they apply to Jesus Christ. During the yearly calendar, the Jews were required to journey to Jerusalem three times a year as part of these feasts periods:
Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the Lord empty: (Deuteronomy 16:16)
As you can see from above, the Israelites were not to appear empty-handed before the Lord on these three occasions and we would suggest that as believers in Christ, we should not appear empty-handed either. The first feast of the year that required the journey to Jerusalem was the feast of unleavened bread. As mentioned above, the leaven is figurative of sin and as Christian’s it is our responsibility to remove the presence of leaven (sin) from our lives wherever possible. The second feast referred to here is the feast of weeks (Pentecost) where the Holy Spirit was out poured on the new followers of Christ. Equally, our own lives should be “Spirit-filled” and the fruits of the spirit should be evident to others as we walk with Christ. The final feast of the year that the Jews would go to Jerusalem is the Feast of Trumpets which we suspect pre-shadows the rapture of the Church. It is at this point that we will all appear before our Lord and Judge, Jesus Christ and we should not be empty-handed here either. How fruitful will our lives have been and what will we have done with our “talents”? Will we be able to demonstrate that we have shared Christ with our unsaved friends and discipled our saved friends? It is this point that believer receive rewards for the fruits of their work:
Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. (1 Corinthians 3:13-15)
Two additional feasts
In addition to the seven feasts described above, there are two other feast days that the Jewish community celebrate that are worth covering. The Feast of Dedication and the Feasts of Lots are celebrated in remembrance of significant events in Jewish history and serve as vivid reminders of God’s sovereign protection over His chosen nation. Although, the NT does not indicate that these feasts are fulfilled by Jesus Christ in the same way as the Feasts instituted by Moses, we have briefly described them below as they provide a more thorough understanding to the yearly Jewish calendar.
Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah/Chanukah)
The feast of Dedication celebrates the Maccabee’s victory over the Greeks in 165 BC. The temple was rededicated after being defiled by the Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanes. It is celebrated between 25 Kislev – 2 Tevet (November or December). This feast is also known as the Feast of lights as during the rededication a miracle took place with the oil for the temple light. To rededicate the temple the light needed to be burning continuously for eight days but there was only enough oil for one day. God kept the flame burning for the whole eight days until more oil could be obtained.
Although not recorded in the Bible, it is seen as an important time of remembrance and celebration, the events were recorded in the book of Maccabees (in the Apocrypha). Jesus even celebrated this as John tells us:
And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch. (John 10:22, emphasis added)
Hanukkah is a reminder that God is faithful to his believers. God will not leave us and we should remain faithful to Him in times of persecution, seeking courage and strength from Him:
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)
Feast of Lots (Purim)
Purim is celebrated each year on 14 or 15 Adar (February or March) to remember Haman’s failed plot to kill all the Jews in King Xerxes’s kingdom. The feast is named purim (which means “lots”) as Haman cast lots to decided on the day to kill the Jewish people (Esther 3:7). Esther was the Jewish Queen in Shushan, it was her cousin, Mordecai, who uncovered the plot and warned her, who then told the king. The whole story is covered in the book of Esther.
The feast is a celebration of God’s protection over His people. Although God is not mentioned in the book of Esther His provision is clearly seen. Just as the Jews in Shushan had a irrevocable decree put against them, which God delivered them from, we all have an irrevocable decree against us because of our sin and deserve death. But Jesus Christ delivers all those who believe in Him from that decree:
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
The Bible passage we quoted at the top of this article releases the Christian from the necessity of strictly observing any festival. Although Christmas and Easter very formally pagan festivals that were “Christianised”, they can and do provide great opportunities to share and promote the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, we would add that we feel there is great value in recognising and commemorating the Jewish feast days as they all teach us something of Jesus Christ as they either point us to His first coming or His second coming. We would question the logic of completely ignoring the Jewish feasts that were instigated by God and were celebrated by Christ to then replace them with commercialized holidays that were previously pagan festivals. Neither Christmas or Easter had anything to do with Jesus Christ until they were hijacked by the early church but the Biblical feasts teach us intimate details about Jesus Christ and the way of salvation for mankind. Not only this, they illuminate and reveal features of the two most important events in eternity – the first and second coming of Christ! This is obviously a judgment call for every Christian and we would strongly encourage every believer to learn about the Jewish feasts and discover that Jesus Christ at the centre of each one. Nothing should be done in a legalistic way, but we believe any believers walk with Christ will be greatly enriched by making a study of the Jewish feasts are priority!
Calendar of Future Feasts
|Passover||April 15||April 4||April 23||April 11||March 31|
|Unleavened Bread||April 16||April 5||April 24||April 12||April 1|
|Firstfruits||April 17||April 6||April 25||April 13||April 2|
|Pentecost||June 4||May 24||June 12||May 31||May 20|
|Trumpets||September 25||September 14||October 3||September 21||September 10|
|Day of Atonement||October 4||September 23||October 12||September 30||September 19|
|Tabernacles||October 9||September 28||October 17||October 5||September 24|
|Dedication||December 17||December 7||December 25||December 13||December 3|
|Lots||March 15-16||March 4-5||March 23-24||March 11-12||Feb 28 – March 1|