For Israel, the feasts of the Lord looked on to Christ and their future. Leviticus 23 gives an outine of all the feasts. There are seven feasts plus the Sabbath, which stands on its own. It is the first mentioned, and stands for the covenant between Jehovah and Israel.
The Jewish year was made up of seven feasts: unleavened bread, the Passover, the feast of the first-fruits, the feast of weeks (Pentecost), the blowing of trumpets, the day of atonement and the feast of tabernacles. Are these just dry old ceremonies? Not at all – they speak volumes for the Christian, as he understands their typical and prophetic meaning.
The Passover – Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 5:7 “For also our passover, Christ, has been sacrificed”. That occasion looked on to Christ’s death for us who are saved from wrath, as were the Israelites who were sheltered by the blood of this sacrifice.
The feast of unleavened bread is often linked with it as Paul does in the verse following that quoted above.”So that let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with unleavened bread of sincerity and truth”. This is a continuous exercise for a Christian - to judge in oneself all the features that leaven represents. The Lord also uses leaven as a symbol for religious hypocrisy and for pride that puffs up.
The feast of the first-fruits (the barley harvest) points to the resurrection of Christ – “on the next day after the Sabbath, the priest shall wave it”, verse 11 of Leviticus 23. The Lord rose on that day, as described in the gospels. Paul speaks of this feast in 1 Corinthians 15:20, “But now Christ is raised from among the dead, first-fruits of those fallen asleep”. Paul then continues to explain, in verse 23, and in 1 Thess. 4:13-18 that we too are to be raised, “from among the dead”.
The feast of Pentecost was exactly 50 days after the Sabbath referred to above. The descent of the Holy Spirit was on that day, to form the assembly [church] and unite it to Christ in glory. Notice that on this occasion, the two loaves brought out of the houses and presented, are leavened but baked in the oven. The leaven has ceased to operate – a figure of the fact that we have the power, by the Spirit, to render sin inactive, even though it is still there. This is the only time that leaven was to be found in any of the offerings. Between this feast and the next, we find an allusion to the stranger being considered. We, the Gentiles, are referred to in this type.
The next feast is the blowing of trumpets, Leviticus 23: 22-25, was held several months later on the first of the seventh month. It is mentioned in Psalm 81:1-5 and very fully carried out in Nehemiah 8, when it was held by those who had returned from Babylon to Jerusalem. This feast is a reminder to Israel of their hopes and calling – a happy day. This feast has not yet been fulfilled. It is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance, as we are told in the Epistle to the Romans. We will look at this a little later.
The next, (Leviticus 8:26-32) on the 10th of the same month, is the day of atonement, a day for them to consider their offences. This was a solemn day. The high priest went into the holy of holies, to make atonement “for himself and for the errors [sins of ignorance] of the people” – Hebrews 9:7. He sprinkled blood on the mercy seat. In so doing he confirmed the link between Israel and Jehovah. When is this fulfilled? It is still to come. Zechariah 12: 10-14 very touchingly describes the time still to come when; 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 on me whom they pierced…and they shall mourn…and they shall be in bitterness, etc. Israel will acknowledge that they had rejected their Messiah. Where is the fulfilment of this feast? We will come to this.
This leads to the final feast for their year – the feast of tabernacles (Leviticus 23:37-44), the “grand finale”. They were to build booths [little temporary houses] with “palm branches and the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook” and they were to “rejoice before Jehovah your God seven days”, in happy fellowship together for seven days. They were to camp like this as a reminder that their forefathers had been travellers in the wilderness. This will undoubtedly be fulfilled in the millennial reign of Christ, the coming kingdom, which the Psalms and almost all the prophets anticipated. This is the time as depicted in Isaiah 11, when “the wolf shall also dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down wth the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatted beast together, and a little child shall lead them”. The reader will notice that these verses in Isaiah 11 are preceded by verses 4,5 – “he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked”. This refers to the cleansing of this world by judgment prior to the peace and joy of the kingdom.
Then there is a mention of an eigth day, probably “the last, the great day of the feast” when “Jesus stood and cried saying, if any one thirst, let him come to me and drink”, John 7:37. This could also foreshadow eternity. The number seven in Scripture often refers to that which is complete; the eightth day then represents that which is beyond eartly completion or “perfection”.
I have sought to “place” the fulfilment of these types. The feast of trumpets, Israel’s awakening, and the day of atonement, Israel’s repentance, pose a challenge as to “exactly when”. However, in Daniel 12 there are an extra 30 days, then a further 45 days in addition to the 42 months of distress “such as never was since there was a nation until that time” (Daniel 12:1). The Lord confirms this in his own statements in the gospels, e.g. Matthew 24:21-22. You will notice that the final period of 45 days is connected with a blessing for those faithful Israelites who reach it. Daniel 12:12, “Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and thirt five days!” This is undoubtedly the beginning of Christ’s reign. The last 15 days will, to my mind, result in the fulfilment of the feast of trumpets, on the first of the month; this is followed on the tenth by the day of atonement; then on the 15th the beginning of the feast of tabenacles, which as we saw above, lasts the whole thousand years.
We have accounted for the last 15 days, but what have we done with the preceeding 60 days days? Well, there are other actions. Let us look at just two that affect those remaining on the earth at that point. One involves the gathering of the tribes of Israel and the other the judgment of the nations.
In Matthew 24:29-31 we get the gathering of the “elect”: “But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun shall be darkened…and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven…and he shall send his angels and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds”…
The prophets of old speak frequently of this event - see Zechariah 10:10, 8:7, Isaiah 60:9, 66:20, 49:22,23, 49:11-13. This last reference is noteworthy: “Behold these shall come from afar; and behold, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim [China]. Shout, ye heavens; and be joyful, thou earth; … for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy on his afflicted ones”. I read recently where a colony of Chinese Jews have been discovered.
The other action we referred to above is seen later in Matthew 25:31-46 where we find the Son of man sitting on his throne of glory and the nations on the earth at that time are brought before him for judgment – he separates persons, “the sheep from the goats”, and in verse 46 there are some that go into eternal punishment and the righteous into life eternal.
Remember too that the in Israel the harvest and the vintage were both complete before the feast of the first of the seventh month - the feast of trumpets. It is significant that the Lord uses the parable of the harvestmen [angels] to separate the tares from the wheat, at the end of the age – see Matthew 13. [It is unfortunate that the KJV uses “at the end of this world” when it should read “the age”. I can imagine persons getting confused with actions that do not occur until the end of the thousand years, because of this.]
A very busy time indeed as the earth is morally cleansed for the coming kingdom, the reign of Christ over the earth. Further, in Revelation 14:14-16 we find the “harvest” of the earth in judgment, followed by verses 17-20 where the “vintage” is described. “Send thy sharp sickle, and gather the bunches of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripened. And the angel put his sickle to the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast the bunches into the great wine-press of the fury of God.”
We have not looked at the place that the church has with Christ, but at the actions connected with the earth, and as typified in the feasts of Israel.
As we can see, it will be indeed blessed for the faithful remnant of Israel to reach the 1335th day! Remember how Jesus spoke to the disciples – “he that has endured to the end, he shall be saved”. As a closing remark, I ask that people read that verse in the Jewish context – Mark 13:12, and not as evidence that a Christian can be saved today and lost tomorrow. MM