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