Posts tagged ‘Passover’

The Church & The Old Testament Law

I have been on a journey.  It started when a friend introduced me to the idea that there was insight to be gained by studying the Scriptures through Messianic Rabbis.  Then while reading through the book of Romans, God revealed quite plainly that the Jews are still His chosen people, and that the Gentile church should honor them as the root of our spiritual blessings (since our Savior was Jewish, and it is through the Jews that He came, ultimately offering salvation to the Jew first, and then to the Gentile).  I had never been taught that the Church had replaced Israel as God’s people (Replacement theology), but in fact, I had never really been taught anything about Israel, the Jews, or their role in the world, or in the Church.  As I continued to study throughout this journey, God slowly on taught me about His plan for the Jews and the Church.

About a year ago I wrote a couple of posts detailing the 7 feasts of Israel…those Israel was commanded by God in the Torah (specifically Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy) to observe every year.  My posts explained the direct link between the feasts and their purposes and prophecy, half of which have been fulfilled by the first coming of Yeshua (Jesus’ Hebrew name…the one given by God).  Those feasts are the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of First Fruits, and Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks.  They were each prophetically fulfilled in Yeshua’s death (as Passover Lamb), sinless life (unleavened bread; leaven/yeast representing sin), resurrection (first fruits of those raised from the dead to eternal life), and Pentecost.  At the first Pentecost, God gave the Israelites the Law.  Salvation was obtained through obedience to the Law.  On Pentecost after the resurrection of Yeshua, He gave believers the Holy Spirit, marking us as obedient/righteous through the righteousness of Messiah.

These four feasts are in the spring, and all have been prophetically fulfilled.  The remaining three feasts are the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot).  The spring feasts are at the time of planting.  The time of growth follows.  In the fall, the remaining feasts are at the time of harvest, and they have yet to be fulfilled.  They will be at the 2nd coming of Christ.  The seven feasts bookend the Church Age, which is the “summer” of growth period between the spring planting and the fall harvest.

Back to my journey; as I studied and wrote about the Feasts last year, I wondered what the Gentile Christian is supposed to do about them.  And what about the Law, which is the Torah?  Is the Church supposed to be observing the Old Testament Law, including the Feasts?  The laws regarding clean and unclean?  The Sabbath?  Other?  More and more as I continued my Bible study, I was increasingly plagued by the question of how closely the Church and the Jews should be connected.

All of this was compounded this spring when I came under conviction by the Holy Spirit that I am to observe Passover in place of Good Friday.  If you follow my blog, you may recall the post I wrote as a result.  This led to more questions on my part.  Since I felt led to observe Passover, did that mean I should observe all of the Feasts?  And then of course, did that mean I needed to observe all of the Law.

After a long time of prayer and study, I believe that I can say with certainty what it is that God has been slowly on revealing to me over the years, and what His message is for the Church.  Let’s begin with some basics.

First and foremost we need to understand the Yeshua, as I stated earlier, was Jewish.  He was born to Jewish parents who observed the Jewish Law of Moses.  We know this because they observed Passover (when he went to the temple as a 12 year old boy), and he was circumcised on the 8th day.  Yeshua Himself said that he was sent to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” in Matthew 15:24.  In John 4:22 He said that salvation was from the Jews.  So Jesus was a Jew, who was sent to the Jews, and it was through the Jews that salvation would come to all the world.  In Luke 24, Yeshua walked with 2 men on the road to Emmaus…remember?  While He walked with them, He revealed to them all the prophecies from the Jewish Scriptures regarding the Messiah and how He had fulfilled them, so Yeshua is also the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy.  There is a direct correlation between Jesus, our savior, the bridegroom of the church, and the Jews.  This connection did not end when the Church began, nor when it began to spread to the Gentiles.  The connection to the Jews will continue into eternity.  This we know because Revelation tells us the great city that comes down from Heaven will be called…the New Jerusalem.  It’s gates will be named after the 12 Jewish tribes and the 12 Jewish apostles.

God had a plan for the Jews which He fulfilled in sending Messiah.  But that plan did not end there.  It will continue into eternity.  God has not given up Israel, nor has He replaced her in His plans with the Church.  Read Jeremiah 31:6-9, Jeremiah 33:34-36, Romans 11:1-2, 10-26.  Note Romans 11:28 TLV – “Concerning the Good News, they [the Jews] are hostile for your sake [the Gentiles]; but concerning chosenness, they are loved on account of the fathers–for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”  (Emphasis mine.)

Romans 11 is the chapter in which Paul (a Jew) explains how the Church is a wild olive branch grafted into the “cultivated olive tree” which is Israel.  He stresses that we are not to be arrogant, thinking that we are better than the Jews because we have seen the Messiah and believed when they have not.  It is because of them that Messiah came in the first place, but also we must remember that God allowed their hearts to be hardened so that salvation could go out from them to the Gentiles through a Jewish remnant who would believe.  Remember that the first church fathers were the Jewish apostles, and the first church members were Jewish.  And in fact, in Romans 15: 25-27 Paul commands the Gentile church to financially support the Jews.  Recall, too, that God told Abraham that those who blessed him (and his descendants) would be blessed, and those who cursed him would be cursed.  God is very serious about how the Church (and the world for that matter) treats Israel, and it would behoove us to examine our attitude and actions toward her.

The second point in this is that Jesus never intended for the Church and the Jews to be two separate entities.  The Old Testament Law is the basis for Judaism.  It is a religion that has been fulfilled.  The religion in its entirety points to the coming Messiah.  Thus, when Jesus came, He fulfilled Judaism.  The Church is built on the foundation of the original Old Testament Judaism.  The two, Old Testament Judaism* and the Church, are intended to be a union, two parts making a whole.  Ephesians 2:11-22 explain this.  In particular notice verse 14 which says, “For He is our shalom, the One who made the two into one and broke down the middle wall of separation,”  and verse 15b-16 which says, “He did this in order to create within Himself one new man from the two groups, making shalom and to reconcile both to God in one body through the cross.”

*Old Testament Judaism:  I am using this term to refer to the very specific written law that God gave to Moses in the desert and commanded the Israelites to obey.  This is the Law that is recorded in the first five books of the Bible.  Between that time, and the time that Yeshua came, many additional legalistic regulations were added to that written law.  They were called the Oral Law; Jesus referred to them as the traditions of men.  Since the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, there was also added the Rabbinical Law which was established to give guidance to Jews who wanted to practice the faith, but could not fully do so without the ability to include animal sacrifice without the existence of the Temple.

So far we have established the Jewishness of Christianity/the Church through our Jewish Savior, and as the very source, or basis of it.  And we have established that Jesus intended for believing Jews and the Gentile believers to be united as one body.

Next we look at the Law, or the Torah.  The Torah is contained in the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  It begins with creation, including the Sabbath, the 7th day of rest; includes the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mt. Sinai; and it also includes all of the laws regarding cleanliness, sacrifices, and the Feasts.  Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-18 TLV – “Do not think that I came to abolish the Torah or the Prophets!  I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.  Amen, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or serif shall ever pass away from the Torah until all things come to pass.”  He continued on to say in verse 19:  “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.  But whoever keeps and teaches them, this one shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

It is clear that the Yeshua intended for the Law to continue and to be obeyed; obedience making righteousness.  When Yeshua was asked what the greatest commandment was, He said that it is to love God, and the 2nd is to love your neighbor as yourself.  All of the law is summed up in those two.  Paul refers to this as Messiah’s Law in Galatians 5:2.  If you consider the commandments (do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, honor your father and mother, etc.) this makes sense.  However, one commandment does not fit in under the love God and love your neighbor umbrella.  That is the “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy” command.  This is really a topic for another post, so I won’t go into it in great depth, other than to say that God set the Sabbath aside as holy at the time of creation.  That was before the Israelites existed.  It is not a command just for the followers of the Jewish Law.  It is a command for all mankind.  Since Yeshua also said that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath, I understand that to mean that we are to observe a day of rest, and keep it holy, but we should not allow legalism to rule it.  In other words, whether it be on Saturday or Sunday doesn’t matter as much as whether or not you have a Sabbath rest.  Try to limit your work, spend time in worship, and rest.

Now back to the rest of the Law.  The Old Testament Law had three primary standards:  the priesthood, the sacrifices, and the Temple.  These three standards were all the responsibility of the tribe of Levi.  The priests were Levites.  The sacrifices were performed by the priests.  And the Temple was cared for and maintained by the priests.  These standards were necessary to fully observe the Law.  What do we know about Yeshua in light of the standards?  We know that He is the Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14).  We know that His death on the cross was the sacrifice that was once and for all (Hebrews 10:10).  And we know that our bodies (those of believers) are now the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).  All three standards were met, fulfilled, in Yeshua.  Where the Old Testament Law pointed to righteousness, Messiah’s fulfillment of the Law became righteousness, which we receive by trusting in Him (Galatians 2:16).

I’ve shared a lot of information, but I still have not clarified what the Church should do about the Old Testament Law.  I already talked about observing the Sabbath.  I also think it is obvious that we should be observing the Ten Commandments as they are summed up in Messiah’s Law.  The sacrifices are no longer necessary as Jesus fulfilled them.  That leaves the laws regarding cleanliness, circumcision, and so on.  Is the Church required to eat kosher meat, and consider themselves to be unclean after coming in contact with a corpse, or observe the 7 Feasts?

Paul declared in Romans 6:14 that we are not under the Law, but under grace.  The question is, how much of the Law are we free from?  This was a question that received quite a bit of discussion in the early Church.  Since Jews were inextricably linked to Judaism, or the Old Testament Law, there was never a question of whether a Jew was a Jew.  If he was a believer in the Messiah, it did not matter, he was still Jewish.  He still attended the Synagogue and still observed the Law of Moses.  He just had a new understanding of the Law.  When Gentiles became believers in Messiah, new questions arose.  Are they Jewish?  Do they need to be circumcised?  Do they need to follow the Law of Moses?  In Acts 15:19-21, we see it was decided that the Gentiles needed to obey some of the Law, but were free from most of it.  James, the brother of Jesus, said, “Therefore, I judge not to trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God– but to write to them to abstain from the contamination of idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what is strangled, and from blood.  For Moses from ancient generations has had in every city those who proclaim him, since he is read in all the synagogues every Shabbat.”  The Gentiles who were becoming believers were meeting with the Jews in the synagogue on the Sabbath.  It was the only way for them to learn about God the Father, and His plans.  The portions of the Law that James listed as the areas to observe, were the specific things that would prevent a Jew from keeping company with them because they would have been considered unclean.  By observing this short list from the Law, the believing Gentiles would be allowed into the synagogue and could study and worship alongside the Jews.

Aside from this, there is nothing in Acts or the Epistles that instructs the Gentile believers to follow the Old Testament Law, with an exception, which I will get to in just a minute.  In Romans 14, Paul makes it clear that the believer is to do as his conscience leads him to do.  This is the passage that talks about being able to eat food offered to idols if one does not feel convicted of it as a sin.  But if one does feel convicted, then it is a sin because that person has gone against his own conscience.  It is also wrong to partake in such a way while in the company of someone who considers it a sin even if you don’t.  The gist of this passage is that nothing in and of itself is unholy as it is made by God.  It is what we do with it that makes a thing holy or unholy.

The exception to the Gentile observance of the Old Testament Law is with regard to the feasts, particularly the Passover.  In 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 NKJV Paul instructs the Gentile believers at Corinth in this way:  “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.  Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (emphasis mine).  

We know that Paul continued to celebrate the Feasts.  Aside from the above passage, we also see in 1 Corinthians 16:8 that he reported staying in Ephesus until Pentecost (the Feast of Weeks).  And in Acts 20:6 it is reported that he sailed from Phillippi after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which followed immediately after Passover, so we can conclude that he observed both.  We also know that Yeshua observed the Feasts.  In Luke 22:7 He instructs his disciples to prepare the Passover.  In fact, the Lord’s Supper, Communion, is a miniature Passover meal, and Yeshua’s followers are commanded to “do this in remembrance of Me.”  We also see in Zechariah 14:16 that all the people of the earth during the time of the Millennial reign of Messiah will travel to Jerusalem to worship King Jesus, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot).

If Jesus observed the Feasts; and Paul, the disciple to the Gentiles observed the Feasts; and all believers are commanded to observe Communion, a miniature Passover; and Paul instructed Gentile believers to “keep the feast”; and the Feast of Tabernacles will be observed during the Millennium; and the Feasts are all prophecies pointing to either the first or second coming of Messiah…is there really a legitimate reason to not observe, or at the very least, recognize the 7 Feasts of Israel?  There is no place that I have found that specifically says Gentile believers are exempt from observing the Feasts.  Neither is there a place that explicitly instructs us to follow all of the Feasts.  But I do believe that instruction is implied.  Because sacrifices have been taken care of by Yeshua, they need not be a part of our observance.  It would be good to mark these dates on your calendar, though; study how God instructed them to be observed, and consider ways to observe at least some of each feast.  In doing so, won’t we be continually reminded of how Jesus fulfilled God’s promises for a Savior as the Passover Lamb, and be encouraged to look forward to the promise of the fulfillment of the remaining feasts in the return of the King?

Good Friday, Easter…We Are Doing It All Wrong!

A year ago I wrote a post about Easter, Easter, the Celebration of the Fertility Goddess. In that post I explained that Easter is a false god.  The common Easter symbols that we are so accustomed to, the egg and the rabbit, are fertility symbols that are directly linked to the worship of this false god.  In fact, even the date that is chosen each year to celebrate Easter is determined according to when the celebration of the goddess Easter was celebrated, the first Sunday after the full moon following the spring equinox.  This is why there is such a great variance of dates causing the holiday to land anywhere between the end of March and the end of April.  To read more about how and why this religious combination happened, please read the post linked above.

As Christians, followers of Christ, and Yahweh, the one and only true God, we better have a problem with this.  This is doing exactly what the Israelites did on countless occasions, and were punished severely by God…it is mixing honor and worship of Yahweh, “You shall have no other gods before Me”, that Yahweh, with worship of a pagan god.  Don’t tell me you are not doing that.  Do you buy chocolate Easter bunnies? How about Peeps?  I love those marshmallow bunnies and chicks!   Do you decorate Easter eggs?  Do you have an Easter egg hunt?  Probably right before or immediately following the church service in which you celebrated the risen Savior.  These symbols have absolutely NOTHING…NOT ONE…SINGLE…THING…to do with the resurrection of Messiah.

What’s more, there is nowhere in the Bible where Christians are told to hold a celebration of Messiah’s resurrection.  To tell you the truth, I can’t say that I have a problem specifically with celebrating it.  Obviously it is something worth a celebration.  However, the command given by Yeshua was to commemorate His death…”Do this in remembrance of Me.”  And that command was given in connection to a very specific, already established, feast.  The Passover.

The evening of the Lord’s last supper with his disciples was the beginning of Passover.  Passover is every year on the same date, the 14th of Nissan, on the Jewish calendar.  It begins at sunset and ends the following evening at sunset.  The Last Supper was the Passover meal, the Seder.  When Yeshua broke the bread, it was unleavened bread which symbolized His sinless life, and it was the bread they were commanded to eat at Passover by God when He instituted it at the time of the Exodus from Egypt.  Remember, a spotless male lamb was sacrificed, and it’s blood spread on the doorposts so that the people would be saved from the angel of death.  Yeshua is that spotless lamb who was sacrificed on Passover, and who’s blood saved us from eternal death.

Yeshua instructed His followers to continue to observe the Passover, but after His death, to observe it in remembrance of what He did for us on the cross. 

“Do this in remembrance of Me.”  Do THIS.  “This” is the PASSOVER.  Look, what Yeshua did with his disciples was break the bread, and drink the cup, as part of the Passover feast.  The Passover feast always pointed to the Savior who would one day come to save the world.  It was a living prophecy of the coming Messiah.  Yeshua fulfilled that prophecy that day, but He never instructed His followers to cease and desist.  He did instruct them to continue to observe the Passover, not as prophecy to come, but rather as prophecy fulfilled.

As I sat in church this morning, considering the coming Maundy Thursday service, and Easter to follow, I was overwhelmed by the Spirit of Christ.  “This is wrong!!” beat in my heart and throbbed in my head.  Passover.  PASSOVER!!!  That is when we are to remember the sacrifice Yeshua made for us.  We have grieved the Holy Spirit by paganizing the holy celebration of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God on the cross.  And now He is calling us back to Him.  Do you hear His call?  Leave the pagan worship of Easter behind you!  Return to Me and MY ways.  Who of you will stand for the Lord?  Who will dare to brave the “heresy” of leaving Easter where it belongs and celebrating Christ on HIS holy day, Passover?

It is the year 2017 on the solar calendar (the year 5777 on the Jewish calendar).  The 14th day of Nissan is tomorrow.  I am going to lead my family in a Seder meal.  It won’t  be perfect because I don’t know how to do it all, and quite frankly, I’m not totally prepared.  But I know we will be honoring Yeshua Messiah on the right day at the right time.  We will attend Maundy and Resurrection Day services.  The question for you and for me is what about next year?  Will we seek courage from God to speak to our church leaders and encourage a return to God’s feast where Yeshua, and only Yeshua, will be honored?  Or will we cower, and continue to mix pagan worship with Christian worship?  In so doing, will we ignore God’s call to return to Him and away from pagan gods as the Israelites did?  The Church has been celebrating Easter for nearly 2,000 years.  Old habits die hard.  Some habits need to be broken.

Here is a link to instructions for a Christian Passover written by Ann Voskamp:  Why A Christian Family Celebrate Passover: A Messianic Seder

Is Your Cross Empty?

I love southern gospel and I love old church hymns. Generally I find that the old hymns in particular can really put my heart and mind in the right frame for worship. While much of today’s Christian pop music tends to focus on the me side of our relationship with God, and feel-good feelings; it can lack God-centered praise and worship. Now don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of wonderful, praise-filled, God-honoring modern songs. But there really are so many that focus on the feelings, and that can be a dangerous thing. Faith in God is not about having that mountain-high-feel-good feeling all of the time. Just like being in love does not mean feeling all ooey gooey inside every day for 60 years. That kind of love goes deeper than week knees and pitter pattering hearts, just like mature faith goes beyond the mountain high to the low valleys and every where in between. Mature faith causes a Christian to praise and worship through the tears, in spite of pain that is not understood. 

Mature faith is the kind of faith that gave us the hymn It is Well With My Soul by Horatio Spafford, written after all four of his daughters died in a shipwreck. 

While listening to my favorite gospel album I was struck by the words of a church favorite. I sang it often as a child. It was my brother’s favorite when he was a young boy. If you grew up watching pioneer or cowboy and western era television programs, you may have heard it coming from a small country church. The Old Rugged Cross. Look closely at the words of the last verse and chorus:  

To the old rugged Cross, I will ever be true 

Its shame and reproach gladly bear

Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away

Where his glory forever I’ll share

So I’ll cherish the old rugged Cross

Till my trophies at last I lay down

I will cling to the old rugged Cross

And exchange it some day for a crown.

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true. I will cherish the old rugged cross. I will cling to the old rugged cross.  You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God. 

Something tells me I should not be true to the cross, but to the One who died on it. I should cherish and cling to Yeshua (Jesus’ given name before He was born) and what He did for me on the cross, but not the cross itself. The cross was simply wood, created by the One who hung on it. The cross did nothing but stand there, inanimate unfeeling, incapable of doing anything. I do not owe my loyalty, love or praise to a piece of wood. I owe it ALL to Yeshua, who sacrificed Himself for me, using that cross to do it.

You may think I am nitpicking. Consider the modern day cross. We wear it on a chain around our necks; have statues of it in our homes and churches; print it on clothing, purses, checkbooks, and even tattoo it on our skin. When you sing in church, do you find your eyes resting on the cross hanging on the wall of the sanctuary, or perhaps you finger the cross on a chain.

There is an ad floating around social media now. A company selling ergonomically correct crosses, painted with designs to please the visual palette. The purpose? To make it easy and comfortable for you to hold in your hand and find peace. Please tell me you see where this is a problem. 

We are a people who trivially use the tool our Savior used to save us to become the focus of worship and the source of our salvation. This is why God commanded the Israelites to make no carved, or otherwise, image of anything from the earth. He knew our foolish tendencies. Did you know that God told the Israelites that if they built an alter to sacrifice on, they must not use cut stone, but raw and untouched. Why? For the exact same reason. And yet here we are. We have removed Yeshua from the cross and made it our idol. The cross, empty and standing where is was put by human hands, is worth nothing. 

Over the next few weeks, as we approach Good Friday, I urge you to prayerfully consider the place of the cross in your worship. We must glorify Yeshua who bore the cross, not the cross that bore Yeshua.

The 7 Feasts of Israel and Their Link to Messianic Prophecy

Hello!

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.

PART ONE

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.

PART TWO

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.

PART THREE

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.

 

The Blood of the Sacrifice and the Cup of Communion

Friday, April 22, 2016 was Passover.  Passover is always on the same day of the Jewish calendar every year, the 14th day of the month of Abib.  This is according to God’s command given at the time of the exodus from Egypt.  It is still the day that it is observed today. 

Passover was the day that Jesus, Yeshua, was crucified.  In truth, if we are to remember His sacrifice on the actual anniversary of it, we should have done that just over a week ago on April 22nd. 

On the night before the Israelites left Egypt, the people were given instructions for observing the first Passover Feast.  Among other things, they were to sacrifice a lamb (or goat), a year old, and without blemish.  Each household was to do this, unless the household was too small to eat the whole lamb, then they could share with another household.  Very specific instructions were given on how to sacrifice and prepare this lamb.  Each household would sacrifice their own lamb, spread the blood on their door posts, and then cook and eat the lamb.  The blood on the door posts marked the Israelites as set apart from the Egyptians.  When the Israelites left Egypt, they numbered more than 600,000 men (plus women and children)…I wonder how many households that was?  Keep that in mind for now.

I would like to point out two things here.  One, the blood as an identifier; and two, the one-year-old lamb without blemish.  Now let’s see if there is a pattern.

Once the Israelites were safely out of danger from the Egyptians, God put the people to work building the Tabernacle (the incredible tent of meeting where God Himself would be present with the people).  It was at this time that God instituted the sacrificial system.  This was a series of animal and grain sacrifices that would cover any number of purposes.  The Burnt offering was voluntary.  It was an act of submission to God’s will.  The sacrifice was a male lamb, bull, ram, dove, or pigeon (God made allowance for those who did not have the means to offer a larger animal).  If the bull, ram, or sheep was used, it was to be without blemish.  The person offering the sacrifice laid his hand on the animal’s head, symbolizing the substitution of the animal for the person.  The priests would place the parts of the animal on the alter and burn it.  It was also the priests who would sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice around the alter.

Other sacrifices were the Grain offering, the Peace offering, the Sin offering, and the Trespass offering.  Of these four, three of them offered animal sacrifice, and two of them required an animal without blemish.  The Sin offering required the priest to dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle it seven times before the Lord in front of the veil of the sanctuary, and also wipe the blood on the horns of the alter. When a priest was installed, blood from a sacrifice was wiped on the tip of his right ear, right thumb, and big toe of his right foot.  The same was true for the person with a Leprous condition (which I understand to be any type of sore on the skin that was possibly contagious), after he had been declared clean by the priest as part of offering the Trespass offering.

The blood represented life.  Spilling the blood of a sacrifice was a substitutionary payment for the lifeblood that would have otherwise been required of each and every sinful person by a holy and righteous God.  In sacrificing the animal, without blemish, the person was transferring his own sin to the sacrifice.  At the same time, he was taking the blood of the sacrifice, the consequence of his sin, upon himself, and receiving the forgiveness through the substitution.  In other words, he made the sacrifice his own.

I will come back to this in a moment, but I want to point out something that, to me, is stunning.  It occurred to me while studying this in Leviticus what a great many lambs, goats, bulls, etc. needed to be sacrificed, on a daily basis.  Hebrews 10:11 says that every priest offered daily, and repeatedly the same sacrifices which never take away sins (the sin and the trespass offerings).  The Passover was celebrated yearly, and required an unblemished lamb or goat for each family.  At the time of the Exodus, as I stated earlier, there were hundreds of thousands of Israelites.  A wild stab in the dark would suggest that there may have been as many as 30 to 40 to maybe even 50,000 families.  That was when the nation was small.  They continued to grow.  Imagine the numbers by the time Christ walked the earth.  Now, how many animals without blemish do you suppose are the regular, run-of-the-mill occurrence?  I asked a local sheep farmer I know.  His response?  Maybe 1%.  One percent!!!  It would have been earthly impossible for the Israelites to offer up the sacrifices, as God commanded them to do, at the high numbers that were necessary, without the miraculous provision of them.  Just as God provided Yeshua, our spotless sacrificial Passover lamb for the forgiveness, once and for all, of our sins and the sins of the world, God also provided the lambs without blemish for thousands of people over hundreds of years for the forgiveness of their sins. Amazing God!!

Back to the blood of the sacrifice and the Passover.  I stated a moment ago that the person offering the sacrifice made it his own by laying his head on the animal, killing it himself, getting the animal’s blood on his own hands.  It was the consequence of his own sin.  He took that blood upon himself.  The blood of the Passover lamb, spread on the door posts, set that family aside as belonging to God.  There was great symbolism in the blood.

The night before Jesus was crucified, he had what we call the Lord’s Supper, or Communion, with His disciples.  In this meal, a cup of wine represents the blood of Jesus that was to be spilled for the forgiveness of sins through His sacrifice.  What did the disciples do with that wine, the symbolic blood?  They drank it.  They took it upon themselves, by taking into their bodies.  They made it their own.  And in so doing, they marked themselves as set aside and belonging to God.  The next time you partake in the Lord’s Supper, remember it is more than remembering what Jesus did for you at the cross.  You have accepted His sacrifice in your place, as a consequence of your sin…you have made, so gratefully, His sacrifice your own.  Your hands have been covered by His blood.  And beyond that, you have been marked as His, set aside, belonging to God Himself. 

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold!  The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”  (John 1:29)

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