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THE FEAST DAYS—NOW AND THEN

Rich Kelsey

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The LORD said to Moses,

"Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the LORD, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.'" (Lev. 23:1–2)

God commanded the children of Israel to observe the spring time Feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, and Weeks, also known as Pentecost. In the fall, Israel was commanded to observe the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles. These holy days revolved around Israel's agricultural seasons, with the harvesting of the various crops of wheat, corn, olives, figs, and grapes. In this chapter, we will look into these Jewish feast days and their spiritual counterparts in the new covenant.

The material things used in old-covenant rituals—the lampstands, the curtain in the Temple, even the Temple itself—represent spiritual designs in the New Testament. Also, every old-covenant ordinance represents a new-covenant model in this dispensation. The lamb sacrifice represents Jesus Christ in his role as Savior—his blood atonement is the true ransom for man's sins!

The Old Testament lamb sacrifice was a mere shadow of the real design, whose substance is Christ, and the same holds true with the Jewish feast days. The Passover feasts are rituals that point to the Messiah; they also transcend the singular Christ and center on his collective body (the church) at the end of time.

The Feast of Passover

Passover celebrated the destroying angel sent by God passing over households in Egypt, sparing the firstborn males from death, both man and animals. The Israelites were warned by the Lord to apply the blood of a lamb to their doorposts so all the households that had the blood in place would be spared as the angel of death passed by.

The Messianic fulfillment is straightforward: the Passover lamb was slain on the first day of this feast; it was on this day 2,000 years later that Christ was slain. We now observe Passover by figuratively putting the blood of Jesus on the doorposts of our hearts.

"The leaders of Israel at the time of Christ did not want to crucify him on Passover: 'They plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him. But not during the Feast,' they said, 'or there may be a riot among the people'" (Matt. 26:4–5).

However, the prophetic typology present within that feast was to be fulfilled on schedule; it was essential that Christ die on that very day. The years of Israel mimicking the real event with mere lambs were now over: the true lamb, Jesus Christ, was slain.

In the church age, this feast takes on spiritual meaning. Passover speaks of Christ's atonement—in a sense this is symbolic of our salvation experience as we apply the blood of the Lamb, figuratively speaking, and enter into a covenant with God. It also has an application with the children of Israel (the church) during the time of trumpets, when the destroying angel will pass over all those who have been "sealed" (Rev. 9:4).

The Feast of Unleavened Bread

Many theologians believe the feast of Unleavened Bread represents Christ's body and how it did not rot in the grave, because bread without yeast lasts much longer than leavened bread. This understanding of the feast may have an application with Christians at the end of time:

"Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth" (Rev. 11:8–10).

Is it possible that our bodies also will not rot in death before we are resurrected and ascend?

"But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, 'Come up here.' And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on" (Rev. 11:11–12).

This feast also has an application in the Christian's life: after finding salvation in Jesus (Passover), we feed on his teachings (Unleavened Bread). This feast represents us partaking of Christ and purging yeast (sin and false doctrine) from our hearts. It also corresponds with the exact day God brought Israel out of Egypt. The Children of Israel were slaves in Egypt. Egypt is a type of the world. God through Moses delivered Israel from Pharaoh's hand and through a greater Moses—Jesus Christ—has delivered us from Satan's domination.

The Feast of Firstfruits

The Feast of Firstfruits is an illustration of God's early harvest of souls (the first resurrection). During this ceremony, the first sheaf of the barley harvest is cut and presented to the Lord. This symbolizes Christ: He was the first to be resurrected.

"But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" (1 Cor. 15:20).

It also depicts those in Christ (the church):

"But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him." (1 Cor. 15:23).
During this feast, the first of the crop's fruit was waved before the Lord to be blessed by God, ensuring a full harvest.

The Day of Pentecost

The Greek word for Pentecost means "fiftieth": it means that there are fifty days from the Feast of Firstfruits to the Feast of Pentecost. Held at the end of the wheat harvest, this one-day feast is also called the Feast of Weeks because seven weeks pass between the two feasts. The numerical symbolism—seven days times seven—is that of completion to the highest degree. As far as the Messiah is concerned, it was on this day that Jesus

"received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:33).

Jesus is now glorified: he has completed the design God had for him. On the Day of Pentecost, God's design for Israel was also completed as the New Testament church was born. No longer was the gospel only preached to the literal descendants of Jacob. The

Apostles soon realized that God had now granted the

"Gentiles repentance unto life."

Perhaps this is why in the original feast, Israel was commanded to bake two loaves of leavened bread. Could the two loaves represent the Jewish and non-Jewish nations coming together to form one assembly? This may also answer the question of why He had them bake leavened bread (bread with yeast), because leaven represents sin and false teaching, which has plagued the church from its beginning.

The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost

The Scriptures disclose a principle for us to consider, as shown in the King James Bible:

"The day of Pentecost was fully come" (Acts 2:1).

The Greek word for "fully" in the text, sumpleroo, means to accomplish fully, or fill up. In the Emphasized Bible this verse reads:

"And when the day of pentecost was filling up [the number of days]."

That saying demonstrates that the years Israel spent mimicking the spiritual event God was illustrating through ritual were now over; the real substance of Pentecost had arrived. On that day, as recorded in Acts, the Holy Spirit descended. It was the beginning of a whole new era for mankind. Pentecost was the day Joel had recorded in Bible prophecy. It was on this day the Spirit of God was to be poured out upon all flesh. This gift of the Spirit empowers the Christian to be a strong witness for Christ, as recorded in God's Word.

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

The feast day from the Old Testament that we call Pentecost had to do with a move of God's Spirit in the New Covenant—in this instance, at the very beginning of the church's formation. Pentecost will have another, more perfect fulfillment at the end of this age. A look into Joel's original prophecy from the book of Joel depicts this Pentecostal outpouring of God's Spirit transpiring around the time of the sixth seal in the book of Revelation. Prophecy has applications in the church age at the end of time that fit the scriptural context better than their earlier partial fulfillments. In fact, Joel's prophecy will have its final fulfillment in the coming kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Let's look at small portion of this prophecy:

"And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD'" (Joel 2:28–31).

This brings us back to the mortgage scroll in the book of Revelation, because when Jesus opens the sixth seal on that scroll, the sun turns to darkness and the moon to blood.

"I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind." (Rev. 6:12–13)

The End-Time Harvest Will Be with Torrential Showers

Still reading from Joel concerning the harvest:

"The open pastures are becoming green. The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches. Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil." (Joel 2:22–24)

In the last days, the church will receive both the autumn and spring rains at the very beginning of the growing season. Rain is symbolic of God's Spirit: this means that as God's spiritual harvest is in its beginning stages, there will be a substantial outpouring of God's Spirit to nourish the crop to maturity.

The Feast of Tabernacles

The Feast of Tabernacles is made up of the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Booths. There can be little doubt that the ceremonial Feast of Trumpets from the Old Testament is an illustration of warning, battle, and victory for the church at the end of time. As the trumpets in heaven begin to sound, the war in the spirit will escalate.

Ten days pass between the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement. Maybe this is why in Revelation it reads,

"Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Rev. 2:10).

The number ten is symbolic of a time of testing in Scripture, and the Jewish nation is aware of this. During this time between holy days, Jewish people reflect over their transgressions of the past year and are of a repentant spirit. 

Then Comes the Day of Atonement

The Day of Atonement was the most important day of Israel's entire year. On this day, reconciliation was made for the sins of the nation—sins that could separate Israel from divine favor. God would either accept the blood sacrifice from the hands of the high priest or reject the offerings. Israel was commanded to fast.

On the Day of Atonement, Israel's high priest walked into the Temple past the holy place, beyond a heavy curtain, and stepped into the Holy of Holies, sprinkling the blood of a calf upon the altar. The Holy of Holies is an inner room where God's Spirit was manifest; it was in this room and with this blood that the high priest made atonement for the sins of the people.

"... only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing." (Heb. 9:7–9)

The way into the Most Holy Place came with much struggle, suffering, and blood. Through his sacrifice, Jesus opened the door for us. Now we are able to follow in Christ's footsteps through the heavy curtain into the Holy of Holies. The Hebrew word for atonement, athalyah, means "to compress"—the idea is of many becoming one. We could look at the English word at-one-ment to understand the principle. The whole purpose for mankind is to come into the image of God—to become one with our Father and His Christ. In the past, what held us back was sin. When the true Day of Atonement comes, we will be cleansed experientially. On that day, something wonderful will happen—we will step into the true Tabernacle.

The Feast of Tabernacles or Booths was an Old Covenant observance that lasted seven days. At the end of the summer, when all the fruit from the harvest of the land was brought into the barns, the Hebrew tribes of Israel would offer various sacrifices unto God from the harvest.

This feast started on the fifteenth of October and was a time of thanksgiving to celebrate and praise God for the abundance of the summer harvest. God also had the people gather tree boughs and erect booths to dwell in during this celebration. These booths represented the booths in which the Israelites dwelled while in the wilderness when God delivered them from Egypt. Surely the Old Testament booths constructed of palm boughs were used for protection from the blazing sun. This Old Covenant ritual depicting protection from harm's way is showing us another ordinance with a New Covenant design: the church will rejoice in God at the end of the spiritual harvest in the hot summer season that lies ahead.

Our joy will be made full as we take our place at the great marriage feast—the Feast of Tabernacles. The harvest of the wheat will be in the barns. At this time, we will be enclosed by divine sanctuary into the ark of safety. As the wrath of God rains down, we shall be eating and rejoicing on the heavenly shore. Even as the children of Israel headed from their booths to Canaan's land, we'll be preparing to inhabit the land of Canaan, spiritually speaking. The Year of Jubilee followed these feasts in Old Testament symbolism. This was a time when all the land that had been forfeited throughout the years was redeemed to the original owners. The Year of Jubilee represents the coming millennial kingdom, with the Redeemer Jesus Christ taking possession of earth's domain.

It's essential that we understand what our fate is. Our fate is to be protected from wrath. Our fate is to be sustained through supernatural means, like the children of Israel in the wilderness, then received up into glory to the marriage feast at the end of this age. Christians need not fear the role God has for them. The yoke Christ has us wear will never chaff. Understanding God's calling for us brings about a desire in our hearts to fulfill that calling. We need to seek God's will, focusing on the knowledge the Scriptures contain, and stand as God's anointed.

God has hidden his most precious pearls of wisdom in the dark illustrations of prophecy. He is calling us to come into that knowledge that we might be fruitful. As the harvest of the earth grows near, it is written,

"The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me." (Song of Sol. 2:11–13).

These are the days when Jesus brings in the firstfruit from the land.

 

For more information on this subject:

Christian Works by Rich Kelsey