I have just finished a 3-part series about the Feasts of Israel and what part they play in the Messiah’s life. It is absolutely amazing, and something we Gentile Christians miss far too often. I promise you, you will be amazed! These posts were originally published on another site. I will post all three here for ease of access.
At the time of Moses, God commanded Israel to celebrate seven feasts. They were Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Weeks, Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles. Passover through Weeks were spring feasts, while Trumpets through Tabernacles were fall feasts. The question is, if these feasts were commanded for Israel to follow, what does it matter to the Church? There are two primary answers. First, as people grafted into the tree of Israel, every Christian should know and understand these feasts. Truthfully we should follow them in some way on the appropriate days as well. I’ll get more into that later. The second reason is that each of these feasts is intricately connected to Messianic prophecy, some fulfilled, and others yet to be.
Before we begin looking at the feasts, let’s take a brief look at the Jewish calendar. Israel today, and always, has followed a lunar calendar. The first day of the month is the day after the new moon, with the first sliver of the moon. The 14th of the month is always the full moon. Every month is always 28 days. This was established by God at the time of the Exodus. The Jewish day (according to God in the creation story…and the evening and the morning was the first day) begins at sundown and ends the following sundown. So the Sabbath actually begins Friday night at sunset, and ends Saturday at sunset. The days of the week do not have names, as we do. Sunday is the first day of the week; Monday is the second, and so on. Saturday is not day six. It is simply Sabbath. The same was originally true of the months of the year. Names were given during the time of captivity in Babylon.
Just as we, with the solar calendar, have a leap year in which we add a day to sort of readjust the calendar for the ¼ rotation, the Jewish calendar has a leap month, so to speak. There is a 19-year cycle in which an extra month is added to the yearly calendar in years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 19. This does not have anything to do with our topic, but it is interesting.
One last thing about the Jewish calendar. Just as we have different year markers, so do they. By that I mean, the first of our calendar year is January 1. A fiscal year can begin anytime a company chooses. And for those of you, like me, who live in the education world, the new year begins in August or September. In fact, I am known to wish my fellow teachers, and my students a happy new year on day one back to work.
Israel has a religious calendar and a civil calendar. The religious calendar begins in the spring. The first day is in the month of Nissan, which comes during our time of March and into April. The first day of the civil year is in the fall. It is the 7th religious month, but the first civil month. This is when they celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the new year, and when the number of the year turns over to the next. In the month of Tishri (our September/October) this fall the Jewish year will turn over from 5776 to 5777. Their years are calculated according to dates in the Bible from the time of creation. So much for billions of years. Since Jews, by in large, do not recognize the Christian calendar with BC and AD (before and after Christ), they use the terms Common or Christian Era (CE) and Before the Common Era (BCE).
With this information, let’s get started on the feasts. The first feast is probably the most familiar for the Christian. It is Passover. Passover was instilled by God before Moses even led Israel out of Egypt. The Passover was the last of the ten plagues inflicted upon Egypt for not allowing God’s people to leave. The Israelites were commanded to select a year old male sheep, without blemish, on the 10th day of the first month (Nissan). They were to take it into their home for four days. On the 14th they were to sacrifice this lamb, roast it, and eat it with bitter herbs and unleavened bread.
Very specific instructions were given. It is especially important to note the lamb was to be without blemish. They were also told not to break any bones. The lamb was not to be moved outside of the house, and if any of the meat was not eaten, the whole thing was to be burned up. The people were to brush blood from the lamb on the sides and top of the door frame of their house, and no one was to leave the house before morning. That night, God went through all of Egypt and killed every firstborn male, human and beast, that was not covered by the blood. It was the blood of the lamb that brought salvation from slavery in Egypt to the people of Israel.
Some of the keywords of this story should ring little bells in the mind of the Christian. The lamb without blemish whose blood brought salvation, for one. The Israelites were commanded to keep the Passover every year on the same date as a memorial to what God had done for them. Yeshua (Jesus) was brought up observing the Passover and observed it during His adult life. In fact, it was during the observance of the Passover that we find some striking parallels.
On the 10th day of Nissan, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, Yeshua, entered into Jerusalem in preparation for the Passover. During the Passover meal, Yeshua took the bread (unleavened bread) broke it and said, “This is my body.” (Leaven, in the Bible, represents sin.) Yeshua equated the unleavened (sinless) bread to himself. Yeshua also took the cup of wine and said, “This is my blood poured out for many.”
The Passover meal (and now what we call the Last Supper) was eaten at night, on the 14th of Nissan. That date carried over to daylight…still the 14th, still Passover. At nine a.m., Yeshua was put on the cross. Six hours later, at three p.m., He died…on Passover. The lamb without blemish, whose blood brought salvation from the slavery of sin. The unleavened/sinless bread that was pierced for our sins. The blood on the doorpost…taken upon ourselves through communion…that delivers us from eternal, spiritual death.
The Passover Feast was a celebration of what God had done for Israel and continues to be for them. But as with many Jewish symbols established by God, there was a shadow of something more- a prophecy that was fulfilled in Yeshua.
There are six more feasts to cover, and we will get to those in future parts of this article, so please be watching for them.
In the first article of this series, we learned the Jewish calendar, established by God, is a lunar calendar. The months are 28 days long, beginning on the first sliver after the new moon, with the middle of the month always being the full moon. Each new day begins at sundown and ends at sundown the following day. An understanding of the Jewish calendar is important to understand how and when the 7 Feasts are held, when the Sabbath actually is, and how these times relate to events in the life and death of Messiah.
We also looked at the first of the 7 Feasts God commanded the Israelites to observe, Passover. Passover was not only a memorial to the physical salvation God gave the Israelites when He brought them out of slavery in Egypt, but also a symbol of the spiritual salvation that was given by Yeshua (Jesus) when He died on the cross. In fact, Yeshua fulfilled the prophecy that is the Passover Feast when He became the young male lamb without blemish that was sacrificed for our salvation. You can read that full article here.
Today we continue with the remainder of what are known as the Spring Feasts (Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Feast of Weeks or Pentecost).
The Passover always begins at sundown on the 14th of the month of Nisan, regardless of what day of the week it was. Because it was the 14th of a lunar month, it was also on a full moon. The year that Yeshua was crucified on Passover, the 14th happened to begin (at sundown) on a Friday. The very next day, the 15th was the day beginning the Feast of Unleavened Bread. That year it would have started on the Sabbath. This was why Yeshua had to give up His spirit before sundown on Passover. It was normal for a crucified person to take up to three days to die. Yeshua died in six hours, so there would be time to bury His body before the Sabbath, which was also the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Unleavened bread, called Matzah, is bread made without yeast. The Israelites in Egypt were commanded to make the dough for their exodus without yeast, because they would not have time to wait for it to rise before they fled. They ate Matzah during the Passover meal and then carried uncooked Matzah dough with them when they left Egypt. The bread itself is symbolic. Leaven or yeast, in the Bible, is representative of sin. When the bread is made, it is pierced all over, and covered with stripes, to make sure no rising takes place. Then it is broken and eaten. The Feast of Unleavened Bread lasts a full seven days. The number seven in the Bible is very significant. It means completeness or wholeness.
As with all of the Feasts, Unleavened Bread has Messianic prophetic meaning. Yeshua was the Passover Lamb who was crucified on Passover. He was also the unleavened bread; the bread that was completely without sin- pierced and striped for our sins. Isaiah 53:5 (TLV) – “But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities. The chastisement for our shalom [peace] was upon Him, and by His stripes, we are healed.”
This is not a presumption made by people wishing to put meaning where there is none. Consider the words of 1 Corinthians 11:23-24 (TLV): “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you—that the Lord Yeshua, on the night He was betrayed, took matzah; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you. Do this in memory of Me.’”
Yeshua, the Lamb without blemish, sacrificed on Passover: prophecy fulfilled.
Yeshua, the lineless unleavened bread, broken and buried on the Feast of Unleavened Bread: prophecy fulfilled.
The third Feast follows on the heels of Passover and Unleavened Bread. In fact, it can sometimes fall in the middle of Unleavened Bread. The Feast of First Fruits was first celebrated after the Israelites were at long last in the Promised Land and had produced a crop. It was the celebration of the spring crops and the act of giving back to God the first fruits of what He had provided for them. Again, Passover was the 14th of Nisan, and Unleavened Bread, the 15th, regardless of the day of the week. The Feast of First Fruits was on the Sunday following the Sabbath that was during the time of the 7-day-long Feast of Unleavened Bread. It is always on a Sunday. Because Passover and Unleavened Bread were on Friday and Saturday in the year that Yeshua was crucified, it worked out perfectly that the very next day, the Sunday which would be the Feast of First Fruits, would be the third day, on which Yeshua was raised from the dead. 1 Corinthians 15:20 (TLV): “But now Messiah has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
Feast prophecy #3: fulfilled.
The last of the Spring Feasts is the Feast of Weeks. It is exactly 50 days after Firstfruits. Recall that Firstfruits is the Sunday after the Sabbath that is within Unleavened Bread. Count from that Sabbath 7 weeks – 49 days from Sabbath to Sabbath, then add one more day to make 50. Like the Feast of Firstfruits, the Feast of Weeks is always on a Sunday. If you are good with calendars, you have perhaps already figured out that Weeks is what the Gentile church calls Pentecost (its Greek name).
All of the seven Feasts are given as commands in Leviticus 23. Passover is mentioned, but most of its instructions were given in Exodus 12. Leviticus records the Law as given to the people of Israel through Moses by God on Mt. Sinai. Jewish tradition says that it took exactly 50 days for the Israelite people to travel from Egypt to Mt. Sinai, where they received God’s Law. It was obedience to this law that determined God’s presence with the people. In fact, in Exodus 32 we have the story of the golden calf. Moses went up to Mt. Sinai to receive the Law from God. While he was there, the people gave him up for dead, gathered gold jewelry, melted it down and made a golden calf to worship. As a result, two very significant things happened. The first is that about 3,000 men were killed for their leadership in building the calf (of interesting note is that no one from the tribe of Levi participated, and thus they received the blessing of being the tribe of priests). Remember that number.
The second thing was that the Spirit of God would no longer be present within the camp. Up to this point, God dwelt in the midst of the people. He lead them by manifesting Himself as a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. From this point on, His angel led the people, and God only met with Moses, outside of the camp, at the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 32:34; Exodus 33:1-3).
Now we jump back to the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost after Yeshua’s death and resurrection. In the wilderness, at the time of the Feast of Weeks, God gave the people His Law, obedience to which determined how God dwelt with or manifested Himself with the people. On the Feast of Weeks, after Yeshua went back to Heaven, God sent His Holy Spirit to dwell within His people, all who believe, both Jew and Gentile. God’s presence was no longer dependent upon our obedience, but upon the belief and acceptance of the perfect obedience of Yeshua. Because He was sinless, our acceptance of His sacrifice meant that we could never lose the presence of God within us by any doing of our own.
Note also the number I emphasized earlier: 3,000. Three thousand men were lost in the wilderness due to their disobedience to the Law; their rejection of God as the God who saved them from bondage. Acts 2:41 (TLV): “So those who received his message were immersed, and that day about three thousand souls were added.” Hundreds of years after 3,000 souls were lost, 3,000 were redeemed for their acceptance of God’s salvation from bondage, the bondage of sin.
Feast #4: prophecy fulfilled.
In parts 1 and 2 of this series, we studied the Jewish calendar and four of the seven feasts established by God. The first four are the spring feasts: Passover, Unleavened Bread, Weeks, and First Fruits. They are all more than God-ordained feasts. They are all also Messianic prophecies, which have been fulfilled.
Today we will look at the remaining three feasts, the fall feasts: Trumpets, Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and Tabernacles (Sukkot)- all have yet to be fulfilled.
What is the significance to the long wait between the two sets of feasts? You will recall that the spring feasts were all fulfilled through Messiah’s death, burial, resurrection and the coming of His Holy Spirit. Each feast represented something significant about what happened in Israel’s past, but was also a prophecy that shadowed the coming of the Messiah. They were all tied into the spring harvest, as well.
The Feast of First Fruits (on which Messiah was raised to life, and is called the First Fruits of the resurrected) is, in fact, the festival to give thanks to God for the spring harvest. The spring harvest is the smaller harvest; its first produce is to be offered up to God as a sacrifice. During the summer, the wheat crops are grown, and the larger crop is harvested in the fall. This is commemorated with the Feast of Trumpets.
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells us that Messiah is the first fruits of those to be resurrected, and those who belong to Messiah are the seconds (1 Cor. 15:20-23). Yeshua (Jesus) was raised to life on the day of the Feast of First Fruits. The summer growing season is the time we are living in now. The time after the spring harvest when the new seed is planted and grown for the greater harvest in the fall. That harvest will be when Yeshua calls His church to Himself.
This opens up an interesting discussion regarding the Rapture of the Church. Why believe that the Feast of Trumpets prophecy will be fulfilled by the Rapture? During this feast, the shofar, or trumpets, are blown. The trumpets were a signal to all Israelites to stop what they were doing and gather at the temple, whether the harvest was complete or not. It was a call to gather before the presence of the Lord.
1 Corinthians 15:51-52* says, “Behold, I tell 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 shofar. For the shofar [trumpet] will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed.”
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17* – “For the Lord Himself shall come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the blast of God’s shofar, and the dead in Messiah shall rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left behind, will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air—and so we shall always be with the Lord.”
Both of these passages tell of a trumpet blast before all believers, dead first, then living, will be called into the presence of the Lord. Yeshua, Himself, made this promise. Look at what He says in John 14:2-3*: “In My Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to Myself, so that where I am you may also be.”
In these verses, Yeshua was speaking in symbolic terms that the disciples, as Jews, would understand. It was traditional for a groom to leave His bride with her family while he went off to build a home for them. Once that home was completed, he would return to get her. He would literally pick her up and carry her to their new home where they would live together.
In Matthew 25, we know that Yeshua refers to Himself as the groom. His bride is the body of believers, both Jew and Gentile, who make up the Church [This does not include the unbelieving Jew. Jeremiah 8:20 – “Harvest is past, summer is over, yet we are not saved.” A remnant will be saved during the Tribulation.]. Yeshua was telling his disciples that when He left, He was going to prepare the marriage home, then come back and physically lift, and carry away, His bride to live with Him.
Now saying that the Feast of Trumpets will be the Rapture leads to another discussion, because we can pinpoint a date for the Feast of Trumpets. Just as Yeshua fulfilled each of the spring feasts on their specific, and chronological dates, we can, at the very least, suspect that He will fulfill the fall feasts in a similar manner. The Feast of Trumpets is always on the first day of the seventh month, the month of Tishri. This would be the first sliver after the new moon in September for us. Obviously, we cannot know the year, but I want to give you something to consider when it comes to date-setting.
Yeshua said plainly that no one knows the day or the hour, not even Him or the angels, only the Father (Matthew 24:36). He was not talking about the Rapture of the Church in this passage. He was talking about the Tribulation and the 2nd coming. We can know this, because if we continue reading this passage in context, and without the chapter and verse breaks that have been added in, Yeshua wraps up this segment by talking about the Great White Throne Judgement (Matthew 25:31-46). This is HUGE! What He was saying is that no one knows the day or hour that He will return physically to earth and set up His earthly kingdom (the Millennial, or thousand year reign written about by John in Revelations 20). Of course, all this being said, who can know the mind of God?
Here is what we have so far. We know for a fact, that Yeshua personally fulfilled the prophecies of the first four feasts, the spring feasts, on their respective dates and in chronological order. We know that we are currently living in the summer growing season before the fall harvest. If one studies the Scriptures, specifically the Old Testament, one can also see quite clearly that God is a god of patterns. It is a much bigger lesson than I have time to go into here. But knowing this, and knowing what we do about the spring feasts, can we not then also know with some certainty that the fall feasts will also be fulfilled at least on their respective dates and in chronological order?
This next part gets a bit dicey. I want to wrap up this series with this article, so I am going to move on to the next fall feast, the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. This was the feast that every Israelite obeyed or was excommunicated. It was the day when all Israel turned their hearts to God and confessed and mourned their sin. Prophetically it will be the day when all Israel, as one, recognizes that Yeshua is their Messiah, and mourn that they rejected Him. Zechariah 12:10* says “Then I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication, when they will look toward Me whom they pierced. They will mourn for him as one mourns for an only son and grieve bitterly for him, as one grieves for a firstborn.” Chapter 13 describes God’s forgiveness of the Israelites for this sin. As Hosea forgave his wife, the harlot, God too, will forgive His wife, Israel the unfaithful, and redeem her to Himself. This atonement will mark the ending of the Great Tribulation, and usher in Yeshua’s return to earth for His kingdom (Zechariah 14 and Revelation 20), which then also is the last feast, the Feast of Sukkot or Tabernacles.
The Feast of Tabernacles is the feast the Israelites celebrated to honor God’s presence with them as they wandered through the wilderness and lived in sukkots (tabernacles…tents). It is the time when Yeshua will live and reign in person on earth, His second coming. This is also the only feast that will continue to be celebrated throughout eternity (Zechariah 14:16-19).
Every year, on that set date, all people of the earth will come to Jerusalem (the new Jerusalem) to worship in the presence of the King.
The dicey part? We know the dates of the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles. Atonement is on the 10th day of the 7th month (Tishri, the same month as the Feast of Trumpets), and the Feast of Tabernacles is on the 15th day of the same month. Yeshua said that no one knows the day or the hour, and He was referring to His second coming, which would be the Feast of Tabernacles on the 15th of Tishri. But, we also know that feast prophecies have been fulfilled on the exact dates and in the exact order. What a conundrum!
I have prayed and prayed about this. I have read and studied this. As I sit here writing what I have learned, I share with you what is on my heart. I believe that the Day of Atonement for Israel will come, and when it comes, it will usher in the 2nd coming of Yeshua, in that order, as the feasts have been celebrated for thousands of years. Because no one knows the day or the hour, except the Father, I believe these dates will be re-established at new times. It is on the date of Yeshua’s 2nd coming that we will all celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles for eternity. As with anyone with the gift of prophecy, and anyone who studies God’s Word for that matter, we can all be certain to not have a complete understanding of everything. One thing I am certain of—there are three feasts remaining to be fulfilled. I have no doubt that they will be. And I have no doubt that the summer growing period is nearing its end, and fall will be here soon.
The bottom line is this: Studying end time prophecy is intended to give us hope in God’s promises, and also to drive us to our knees to seek His work in preparing our hearts for those days. I pray these articles have done that.
*All Scripture passages were taken from the Tree of Life Version of the Bible.
If you have been blessed by these articles, please take a moment to pray and thank God.