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Copyright © Tim Warner
In order to understand the significance of the Jewish feasts, we must comprehend their purpose and timing. The most complete description of the feasts is found in Leviticus 23. Each of the feasts have both a historic and prophetic significance. They celebrate a historical event in Israel's past, but also are a prophecy of future events which have been, or will be, fulfilled. The first four feasts were fulfilled by Jesus Christ during the actual celebration of those feast days. The last three will be fulfilled at His second coming. The feasts are as follows:
1. Passover: [Ex. 12:1-14 & Lev. 23:4,5] On the 10th day of the first month, Nisan, [roughly equivalent to April on our calendar], every family of Israel was to take a lamb, without blemish, and separate it from the flock. On the evening of the 14th the Passover lamb was killed, cooked, and eaten during the night. The blood was applied on the door posts and lintel. This feast celebrates the Exodus from Egypt. But, like all of the feasts, it also has a prophetic meaning. It looked forward to the sacrifice of the "Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world." This was clearly demonstrated by Paul when he wrote, "For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us." [1 Cor. 5:7]. Not only did Jesus fulfill this feast symbolically, but also quite literally. On the 10th of Nisan, Palm Sunday, Jesus rode down the mount of Olives on a colt. He was crucified four days later on Passover.
2. Unleavened Bread: [Lev. 23:6-8] The day following Passover, the 15th of Nisan, began the feast of Unleavened bread. This feast covered seven days, from the 15th to the 21st of Nisan. The first and last days, [15th & 21st], were "High Sabbath" days, although they do not necessarily fall on the weekly Sabbath. "High Sabbath" days are mandatory rest days which occur during some feast days. They are identified in Lev. 23:7, 8, 21, 24, 27, 28, 32, 35, 36, 39. Just as with the weekly Sabbath, the day before any "High Sabbath" is a "preparation day." This means Passover, the 14th, is also the "preparation day" for the "High Sabbath" on the 15th, [see: John 18:28, 19:14,31]. The feast of Unleavened Bread celebrates the journey of the children of Israel through the wilderness, when God fed them with manna from heaven and supplied water out of the rock. This feast was fulfilled by Jesus during the Feast of Unleavened Bread when He said, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." [John 6:51]. Jesus was crucified on Passover. His body [His flesh] was laid in the tomb just before sunset, when the "High Sabbath" of the Feast of Unleavened Bread began. His body laid in the tomb for the first three days of this feast, from the 15th through the 17th of Nisan.
3. Firstfruits: [Lev. 23:9-14] During the seven day Feast of Unleavened Bread fell a Sunday. In the year of the crucifixion, Sunday fell on the 18th of Nisan, three days after Jesus was put in the tomb. On this Sunday, called the Feast of Firstfruits, each Israelite family brought a single bundle of barley to the Temple. The priest would then wave it before the Lord. This bundle represented the very first of the harvest. It was gathered at the beginning of the harvest and given to the Lord. Jesus fulfilled this feast as well. He rose from the dead on the Feast of Firstfruits. The Apostle Paul said, "But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the firstfruits of them that slept."..."For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order, Christ the firstfruits, afterward they that are Christ's at his coming." [1 Cor. 15:20,23]. The resurrection of Christ is the guarantee of our resurrection.
4. Pentecost: [Lev. 23:15-21] From the feast of Firstfruits, the Jews were to count seven Sabbaths, [49 days]. The Sunday following the seventh Sabbath, was the Feast of Pentecost, [which means "fiftieth"]. This feast commemorated the giving of the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai. On that day God himself came down in a cloud on Mt. Sinai in fire and smoke and a blast of God's trumpet, to establish His covenant with His people. This feast was also a prophecy of the coming of the New Covenant which was consummated on the same day, the Day of Pentecost, with a mighty rushing wind, tongues of fire and miraculous demonstrations of the Holy Ghost. Even though the disciples were trained by Jesus for their task of world evangelism, Jesus instructed them to remain in Jerusalem until they received the power of the Holy Spirit which came on the Jewish Feast of Pentecost.
The first four feasts were fulfilled by Jesus both symbolically and literally at His first coming. The last three will be fulfilled by Jesus at His second coming. Since the first four feasts were fulfilled on the very days God commanded His people to celebrate them, it is reasonable to conclude that the remaining three feasts will also be fulfilled on the actual feast days as well.
5. Feast of Trumpets: [Lev. 23:23-25] God commanded Israel to keep a "High Sabbath" on the first day of the seventh month, by blowing a series of trumpets. Although the Scripture does not specify what this feast represents, it possibly looked forward to the fall of Jericho. In the days of Joshua, they were instructed to march around the city of Jericho seven days. Each day the trumpets were blown by the priests, but the people kept silent. On the last day, they marched around the city seven times with the seven priests blowing seven trumpets. When the last trumpet sounded, the people raised a great shout, and the walls of the city fell flat. Is it a coincidence that Paul said we will be raised at the "last trumpet?" [1 Cor. 15:54]. Is it also a coincidence that at the rapture there will be a great "shout?" [1 Thes. 4:16].
6. The Day of Atonement: [Lev. 23:26-32] The Feast of Trumpets is followed by ten days called by modern Jews, "the days of awe." This is a time of national repentance for Israel. The 10th day of the seventh month is the Day of Atonement. On this day the priest entered the Holy of Holies into the presence of God to sprinkle the blood on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant. The Passover clearly represents personal salvation, [each family had their own lamb, and celebrated Passover at home]. But the Day of Atonement represents national salvation for Israel. Only one sacrifice was offered for the whole nation. The Bible makes it clear that at the second coming of Christ, the surviving Jews will look upon Christ and be saved in a day. [cf. Zech. 12:9,10 & 13:1, Rom. 11:25-27, Rev. 1:7] If there is any day on the Jewish calendar which is a prophecy of the second coming of Christ to overthrow the world kingdoms and deliver His people Israel, this is it.
7. The Feast of Tabernacles: [Lev. 23:33-43] Five days after the Day of Atonement is the Feast of Tabernacles. From the 15th to the 22nd of the seventh month was a time of the greatest rejoicing. It was the festival of all festivals. Israel was commanded to build tents [tabernacles] and live in them during the feast days. This commemorated how God brought them out of Egypt, through the wilderness into the promised land. Secondly, they were to cut off branches of palm trees and wave them, rejoicing before the Lord. Even the Jews today recognize that the Feast of Tabernacles looks forward to the Kingdom of the Messiah. Zechariah 14:16-21 states clearly that after Christ sets up His Kingdom the people will celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles as a yearly memorial. Also, Revelation 7:9-17 describes the saints who have come through the "great tribulation." This scene takes place at the inauguration of Christ's Kingdom. It depicts a grand celebration with the saints waving "palm branches." Why are they waving palm branches? Obviously they are celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles. The marriage supper will likely take place during this feast, [Isa. 25:6-8].
There is another day that is celebrated by Israel, Channukah. It begins 75 days after the Day of Atonement [the 25th day of the ninth month - or in our December] and lasts for 8 days. Channukah is not mentioned in the Old Testament, because it began to be celebrated during the period between the Old Testament and New Testament. Basically, it is a celebration of the cleansing of the Temple after the Jews defeated Antoichus Epiphanies. Antiochus was a Syrian King who invaded Jerusalem, defiled the Temple by placing an image of Zeus in the Temple, and offering a pig on the altar. He persecuted the Jewish people terribly, and they began a resistance against him. Eventually, they recaptured Jerusalem, and immediately set about to cleanse the Temple. So, in essence, this is the celebration of the cleansing and rededication of the Temple to God. It is referred to one time in the New Testament, where Jesus was present in Jerusalem for Channukah.
That Channukah is always 75 days after The Day of Atonement may be related to an interesting prophecy in Daniel.
1,335 days is exactly 75 days more than the 1260 days that Antichrist will reign. So, if the Antichrist is destroyed on the Day of Atonement, then the extra 75 days lands us directly on the first day of Channukah. It seems likely this has to do with the rededication of the Millennial Temple, from which Christ will rule.
Since Jesus fulfilled the
four feasts on the actual feast days, we can conclude that He will
fulfill the last three in the same manner. This means that the battle
of Armageddon will likely be on the Day of Atonement, the 10th day of
the seventh month. Could the rapture be the same day? Or, could it be
perhaps 10 days earlier on the Feast of Trumpets?