The Festivals of God
The Plan of God Revealed in His Festivals
The Festivals God has bequeathed to
humanity reveal God's plan. This understanding has escaped the majority. The
Church at this juncture must seriously consider and adopt this heritage. It
is not Jewish or Israelite. These are God's Festivals which He wants
you to keep.
What is the
purpose of our human experience? This is surely the most basic question.
Philosophers and sages throughout history have theorized endlessly, only to
fall short of understanding, because they failed to consult the One who
controls our destiny. Even among Christians those to whom Messiah came to
bring light there are differences of view about the
plan God is working out through human history.
The Bible has
been given to mankind, to provide answers to the most crucial issues facing
humanity. The Bible conveys understanding. Yet, strangely, amongst those who
claim to follow the Bible's every word, there is widespread ignorance
concerning certain aspects of the overall plan of God. Why?
The reason is
simple: we have strayed from our biblical roots.
universally say they accept the New Testament, but not all Christians
acknowledge the value or applicability of what the Old Testament contains.
And yet, it is the Old Testament which can provide a framework upon which we
can attach the teachings of the New, and set them in their proper context.
Neither Old nor New alone can give us a complete picture, and without the
Old Testament, much of the significance of the New is lost. It is only when
we refer to the roots of the Christian faith in the pages of the Old
Testament that we can piece together a complete picture of the plan which
God is working out with humanity.
God's Plan For Mankind
Israel a pictorial view of the plan He purposed for humanity. It was a
picture that only became clear to them as they enacted, year by year, the
days which Yahweh gave to them as an everlasting statute (Lev 23:21).
brought them out of Egyptian bondage, God gave them seven festivals which
pictured seven stages in His plan for mankind. When we take note of them
and observe them, they illustrate for us His wonderful plan of salvation
for all humanity.
If we take a
brief look at the festivals God bestowed on His children, we can discover a
wealth of meaning wrapped in symbolism.
significance of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ first becomes visible in the
Israelites' early history. Enslaved in Egypt for four hundred years, they
had lost their own roots and had become helpless victims under a cruel
system from which there was no escape other than death. They had lost their
own identity and lost an understanding of where they were going. They had
lost sight of God.
God purposed to reveal Himself to them, and deliver them from this
servitude, in order to fulfil a much greater design. It was a plan which
involved more than just that one nation a purpose which would, in turn,
involve the whole world. He intended to reveal Himself to this down-trodden
people as an example for the rest of the world. Centuries before, He had
revealed Himself to their forefather Abraham and Abraham's immediate
descendants. Now He planned to impart further understanding of Himself and
disclose His plan of redemption for all mankind, through the physical events
which were about to transpire.
prepared Moses to represent Him before Pharaoh and to lead Israel out of
servitude. God backed up Moses' leadership with miraculous testimony, which
demonstrated his divine appointment, and which was the leverage God employed
to persuade Pharaoh to release the Hebrew slaves. Despite such
divinely-imposed plagues, Pharaoh was extremely reluctant to concede defeat
until all the firstborn suddenly died throughout the land. The account is
recorded in the book of Exodus.
12 records the story of Israel's miraculous deliverance from Egypt. Egypt is
a type of sin. Deliverance from sin is only possible through forfeiting
life-blood. The blood of a lamb had to be shed and daubed upon the lintel
and around the doorway of the believers' homes (Ex 12:5-7).
We read in the
New Testament that Jesus is now that door of deliverance for us (Jn 10:7).
He has shed His blood as the Lamb without blemish, pure and faultless, and
without sin (Ex 12:5; Heb 9:12,28; 1 Pet 1:19).
God presented Him as a sacrifice of
atonement, through faith in His blood (Rom 3:25).
angel passed over each house which was sanctified by the blood. Hence
the origin of the name Passover (Ex 12:13). Moses reminded Israel of
This is a day you are to
commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a
festival to the Lord a lasting ordinance (Ex 12:14).
letter to the Corinthians, we find Jesus described as our perfect "Passover
lamb" (1 Cor 5:7). It is only through His shed blood that the penalty of all
our sins can be atoned.
It ought to be
obvious that we are to continue to keep the Passover to commemorate Jesus'
death (1 Cor 5:8; 1 Cor 11:23-26).
The Days of Unleavened Bread
Passover deliverance, the Israelites left Egypt with jubilation. They
escaped on the 15th Abib (Nisan, commonly known today as Aviv), the first
month in the Hebrew calendar. Their exit was a hasty one so hasty they
didn't have time to let their bread rise before baking (Ex 12:11,39).
In memory of
this, God commanded them to celebrate a Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven
days (Ex 13:3,6-7). On the first day they were to "hold a sacred assembly
(of rejoicing) and do no regular work" (Num 28:18). It pictured the time
when God led them out of Egypt, and typifies our departure from sin.
But it took
seven days for the Israelites to reach the Red Sea, and it was not until God
led them through those waters, which were a type of baptism (1 Cor 10:2),
that they were completely free from Egyptian control. Although they had left
Egypt a week earlier, it was not until Egypts army drowned in the sea (Ex
15:19) that the Israelites felt perfectly free from fear of Egyptian
from Egypt and its pictorial celebration in the seven days of
Unleavened Bread symbolise for us as Christians, how God delivers us from
sin and fears. We are shown the way out of sin, following our redemption by
Christ's perfect Passover blood. Seven depicts Gods perfection.
Seven highlights the fact that, although we must run from sin just as
the Israelites fled Egypt, such departure is only possible through what
God has done. It is intended to be a perfect deliverance, just as
God is perfect. We must spare no efforts in aiming for God's perfection. The
Israelites fled across that sea bed with intense resolve and haste!
Likewise, he expects you to flee sin and its evil ways!
On the seventh
day following the Passover, a holy convocation (or sacred assembly) is to be
held and we are to abstain from occupational work (Num 28:25; Lev 23:8).
We find a
similar admonition in the New Testament, to continue to celebrate this
festival of Unleavened Bread.
Therefore let us keep the Festival,
not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread
without yeast, the [unleavened]
bread of sincerity and truth (1 Cor 5:8).
up; it symbolises sin. When we determine to live a new life in Christ Jesus,
we also determine to leave the old leaven behind (Rom 6:1-2). The Feast of
Unleavened Bread pictures the turnaround in our lives once we truly accept
Jesus (Yahshua) as our Messiah. The physical act of putting out all yeast or
leaven from our homes, during that festival, is a cogent reminder of what
God expects of us if we are to remain washed from sin through Christ's
the slavery of Egypt behind. We must leave the slavery of sin (Rom 6:6) to
live a new life (v 4).
Pentecost or Feast of Firstfruits
The next step
in God's plan of redemption is depicted by the Feast of Firstfruits, or
Feast of Weeks Pentecost. The day after the weekly Sabbath during the days
of Unleavened Bread, the priest was to wave a sheaf of the first ripe barley
harvest before the Eternal God (Lev 23:10-11,15-16). This ceremony
symbolised their recognition of Israel's dependence upon God for their
sustenance, and also that all firstfruits belonged to Him. They were not
allowed to eat any of the harvest themselves before they had honoured the
following this event (picturing a Jubilee cycle of 50 years), came the Feast
of Firstfruits Pentecost. It was seven whole weeks and a day following the
weekly Sabbath during the spring feast, hence it was alternatively known as
the Feast of Weeks.
describes two harvests in Palestine each year. The early harvest was the
smaller one which included the barley harvest, followed later by the more
substantial harvest of wheat. There is an important analogy here with the
plan of salvation, which God would not want us to overlook.
When the Holy
Spirit descended upon the disciples, gathered in Jerusalem on that first
Pentecost of the New Testament era (Acts 2), the symbolism of the Old
Testament Feast of Firstfruits started to become a reality. Those to whom
God is now opening their minds to His Truth constitute some of His
firstfruits harvest of souls.
They were purchased from among men
[by the blood of the Lamb] and
offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb (Rev 14:4).
return they will receive their reward (Rev 11:15-18), ruling in the
splendour of the spiritual kingdom in the Millennium to come (Rev 20:4).
Millennium is the "glorious rest" referred to in Isaiah 11:10, which Paul
quoted in Hebrews 4 verses 1, 5, and 6. In verse 9, he alluded again to this
spiritual rest by coining a unique word "sabbatismos". This future time is
depicted by the weekly Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, set apart as
holy from Creation (Gen 2:3), which Paul alludes to in Hebrews 4:4. Just as
the weekly rest day is the seventh in God's design, it seems Peter is
implying in 2 Peter 3:8 that the Millennial rest is a seventh thousand-year
period from the foundation of human civilisation.
Sabbath was a commanded day of sacred observance. Indeed it was the first
of all God's holy days enjoined upon Israel, mentioned in Leviticus 23:3. It
is mentioned here out of sequence because of its Millennial association.
The Feast of Trumpets
On the first day of the seventh
month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with
trumpet blasts (Lev 23:24).
day pictures the coming of the resurrected Messiah, in great power and
glory, riding on a conquering white horse (Rev 19:11-16). When He appears in
the sky, the sound of a great trumpet blast will be heard the symbolic
'seventh trump' of Revelation 11:15, 1 Corinthians 15:52, and 1
Thessalonians 4:16. The firstfruits will be resurrected and changed to
immortality at that time.
0Not only were
trumpets sounded at all of God's festivals under the Old Covenant, but a
trumpet blast was also sounded as an alarm of war. The symbolism of the Day
of Trumpets reminds us of the tragic circumstances in which the world will
find itself at His second coming. The coming King will have to fight the
armies of the earth's kings, who will resist His rule and authority. But He
will subdue the nations (Ps 47:2-3), for He is the King of kings and Lord of
lords (Rev 19:16).
The Day of Atonement
The tenth day of this seventh month
is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves
Do no work on that day,
because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before
the Lord your God (Lev 23:27-28).
instructions on what Israel was commanded to do on this annual Sabbath day
are detailed in Leviticus chapter 16. The ritualism involved two goats, one
of which was slaughtered, the other sent outside the camp into the
wilderness. They pictured our two-part release from sin.
His life as a ransom for many, and through His sinless sacrifice, paid the
penalty for all the sins of humanity. In the nation of Israel, God commanded
a release from all debts in every cycle of fifty years, the fiftieth year
being called the Jubilee (Lev 25:8-55). Slaves were released, and unpaid
debts were cancelled. It is fitting that the trumpet, announcing the
cancellation of such liabilities, was to be blown on the Day of Atonement.
The Day of Atonement pictures a fulfilment of that plan, when we will be
'at-one' with God, having been made immortal at the seventh trump, and
enjoying the total release from the debts of sin, enjoying perfect freedom
as spirit beings in the Kingdom of God.
are obliged to observe these days as memorials and reminders (Matt 5:17,18)
they have been enjoined on Israel FOREVER (Ex 31:13,16,17; Lev
23:21,31,41), and the Church is now the Israel of God (Gal 6:16; Rom 2:29;
9:6) the ritualistic aspects of their observance has ceased. Jesus
fulfilled the waving of the sheaf of firstfruits before the Father (Jn
20:17), and the symbolism of the sacrifice of the two goats (Heb 10:1-12).
These were not
merely Israel's festivals, they were God's. He called them "My
appointed feasts" (Lev 23:2), "the appointed feasts of the Lord" (v 44).
The Feast of Tabernacles and The Last Great Day
section of chapter 23 of Leviticus (vs 33-44) describes the final festivals
God has given to His people. The seven-day Feast of Tabernacles begins with
a day of rest and a sacred assembly, and is intended to be celebrated with
rejoicing and festive enjoyment. It is to be a time of sharing the bounty of
the natural harvest with others, and rejoicing before our God, who is the
on physical plenty and enjoyment is a type of the universal plenty, to be
expected after Messiah's reign of peace on earth. The seven days of
celebrations indicates the perfection with which God's plan will be
fulfilled in the future Millennium.
rule the world in righteousness for a thousand years (Rev 20:4), a time
depicted by so many Old Testament prophecies. That time is described in
Isaiah 11, Micah 4, and many Old Testament passages. What could be more
evocative of the peace and plenty promised then than the words of Micah 4:4?
Every man shall sit under his own
vine and under his own fig tree, and no-one will make them afraid (Micah
"the Lord will rule over them in Mount Zion from that Day
" (v 7).
At that time
He will give all people a malleable heart with a new Spirit within them
(Ezek 11:19). No longer will they have a spirit of stupor (Rom 11:8, NKJV),
but all will understand and be able to receive salvation (Is 59:20-21).
Then they will follow My decrees
and be careful to keep My laws. They will be My people and I will be their
God (Ezek 11:20).
The results of
obedience to God will be everywhere. Then all Israel shall be saved (Rom
The Feast of
Tabernacles looks back to our deliverance from sin and the Israelites'
temporary tabernacles, symbolic of our temporal life now, but it also looks
forward to the completion of God's plan for mankind, when the tabernacle of
God is with men (Rev 21:3).
This is the
fulfilment of all that God wishes for mankind. He wishes that all men may be
saved and dwell with Him (1 Tim 2:4).
Then I saw a great white throne and
Him who was seated on it
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing
before the throne, and books [the Bible]
were opened [to their understanding].
Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged
according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up
the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in
them, and each person was judged according to what he had done (Rev
passage is a fulfilment of the Last Great Day, when the opportunity of
salvation will be granted to millions upon millions of people who have lived
prior to the Christian era, or under pagan religions, and who never had the
opportunity to know of God's plan of redemption for them. They will receive
their opportunity in that future time, when the earth will be able to
accommodate them, and when there will be many other brothers (the
firstfruits, then immortal spirit beings) with Christ to help teach them and
bring them into sonship with Him.
At the end of
that time the plan of God for mankind will be complete.
He will live with them. They will
be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will
wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or
crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (Rev 21:3-4).
Who would have
believed that all this was enshrouded in the symbolism of the festivals God
gave to Israel and to the Church? What a wonderful plan!
encouraged as you keep these feasts to God.
Malcolm B Heap