THE FEASTS OF ISRAEL
In Leviticus chapter 23 there are 7 feasts which every able bodied Israelite was to participate in. These feasts, while comemorating the important events of Israel's history are also prophetic. We should realise that the festivals and observations of Israel are "only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ." (Collossians 2:16 - 17). Therefore, let us consider these 7 feasts and what each means.
Firstly we note that they occur in blocks. There are three festivals which mark the beginning of the Jewish calander. These are Passover, Unleavened Bread and First Fruit. Then there is a break of 50 days until Penticost. This feast stands alone in the year and is significantly different to the others. Finally, in the seventh month there are three more feasts. These are Trumpets, Atonement and Tabernacles.
If we take the passage in Collossians literally, these feasts represent aspects of the life and ministry of Christ. Thus we may deduce the following points:
- Passover - This was when God passed over the children of Israel when he judged the land of Egypt on that final night. But we know that the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin. It is no mistake that Jesus died on the Passover feast. This feast was pointing to his death on the cross so that all who have faith in his sacrifice may be "passed over" during God's judgement.
- Unleavened Bread - This followed imediately on from the Passover. Through out the Bible, leaven (yeast) is used as a picture for sin. To remove all leaven is representative of removal of all sin through the sacrifice of Jesus.
- First Fruit - This was to be a celebration of the children of Israel entering into the promised land. They were to take some of the first fruit of the land and present it as an offering to God. We note here that Jesus is the "first fruit of the resurrection" (1 Corinthians 15:20). He is the first to have died and then risen to eternal life.
- Penticost - This was an interesting and unique feast. Firstly it was celebrated on the first day of the week (7 sabbaths + 1 day). Secondly, it was necessary to include leaven in the offerings. This feast points to the calling out of the Church from every nation as a new and different work of God. Until then, God had dealt with a single family, the descendants of Jacob. A relationship with God was only possible if you belonged to this single family. The church was different. To have a relationship with God did not require belonging to a single family, but required faith in His Son. The church was to come from every family of man, thus the inclusion of the Gentiles is represented by the inclusion of the leaven in the bread offerings of this feast. It is no mistake that the Holy Spirit was first poured out on the gathered disciples on the day of Penticost.
- Trumpets - This feast started on the first day of the 7th month. It was celebrated by the sounding of trumpets throughout the land. Trumpets are used as a warning or to herald important anouncements. This feast points to the second coming of Jesus. In Revelation chapters 8 and 9 we see the trumpets used by God to prepare the way for the return of His Son to the earth.
- Atonement - This was celebrated on the 10th day of the 7th month. It was a time when every sin committed by the children of Israel was to be accounted for and removed by sacrifice. This points to the final removal of sin from the world at Christ's return.
- Tabernacles - This began on the 15th day of the 7th month. The main feature of this feast was that the people lived in booths to remind them of the journey through the winderness. But of equal importance was that the people were to cut branches off trees and celebrate and rejoice before the Lord. This points to a time in the new Kingdon as recorded in revelation 7:9-17 when there will be a great multitude from every nation who have been through the great tribulation will celebrate before the Lord and thank Him for His salvation. It is also recorded in the book of Zechariah that everyone who is left of all the nations will celebrate this feast from year to year as they worship the Lord at Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:16 - 19).
So we see that the feasts of Israel are in fact pointers to the life and work of Jesus throughout all ages.