The Jewish Festive Calendar

What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end (Eccles. 3:9-11).

The story of Israel’s redemption is represented through the Jewish festive calendar, yet many are unaware of the real significance. Israel’s annual feasts were both a remembrance of its past as well as an anticipation of things to come. The feasts are described as ‘signs’ and ‘appointed times’ (Ex. 31:13; Lev. 23:2). ‘Signs’(אתת) are a visible or present assurance of a future promise, while ‘appointed times’ (מעדים) designate specific events ordained by God in the fulfilment of His prophetic plan (c.f. Ex. 9:5 and Hab. 2:3). The prophetic nature of the feasts is confirmed by their frequent use as a theme of the Prophets.

The calendar begins with the Passover – historically, the starting point of the Exodus, resuming the call of Abraham – “I will bless you and through you all the nations of the earth will be blessed”.  The blessing is fulfilled through the Messiah who delivers us from our bondage to sin.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread signifies consecration, which in the New Testament corresponds with baptism and ‘the washing with water through the word’. While the old yeast was the influence of paganism, unleavened bread represents Israel removed from its influence. During the course of Unleavened Bread, first-fruits are offered to the Lord. First-fruits (bicurim) is associated with “Israel the firstborn” (bechor). First-fruits is the first of three harvest festivals, linking Israel’s history to three stages in God’s redemptive plan.

Shavuot or Pentecost is the second of the harvest festivals and traditionally associated with the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai. The blessing promised to Abraham would be the restoration to the rule of God, with all its glorious benefits (read Deut. 28:1-14 as the recreation of Paradise on condition of perfect obedience). The Law of Moses brought about the restoration in type until the Holy Spirit was given on the same day, two thousand years later to those who believed in the Messiah. When we receive the Holy Spirit the Law is written upon our hearts – the fulfilment of Shavuot (cf. Jer.  31:31-34; Ezek. 36:26).

The last three feasts all occur in the seventh month (the sabbatical month).Trumpets (Rosh hashana) is the first of these, signifying both the call to battle and the call to repentance. It commences the ‘season of repentance’ (teshuvah) and precedes God’s judgment on the Day of Atonement, (Yom Kippur) when the first part of Israel receives forgiveness and is preserved and sanctified while the other part is cut off for its sins.

Jesus fulfilled the prophetic meaning of trumpets, warning the people of pending judgement and calling the people to repent and believe in Him as the one sent by God to bear our sins. By shedding his own blood he made atonement for the sins of the whole world completing the meaning of Yom Kippur (Leviticus 23:27 and 17:11). Just as repentance was a prerequisite for receiving forgiveness on the Day of Atonement and anyone who disobeyed was to be cut off from the people of Israel (Lev. 23:29), in order to receive the forgiveness of sin through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus we must turn from going our own way and follow him.

Thus, in the prophetic / eschatological application of the Feasts, it is only a remnant of Israel that fulfils and celebrates Tabernacles (since it occurs after Israel’s unique judgment). To this remnant is promised the abiding presence of God, and the light of His glory, by which the nations are conquered and gathered in.  The Jewish believers in Messiah were the faithful remnant and the fulfilment of Tabernacles began as they took the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Each one of the feasts typified and pointed to the spiritual reality that is revealed in Jesus our Messiah. Only when we come to realize how all the feasts of Israel have been fulfilled in the Messiah, can we begin to fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Jesus said, “I am the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:13). In Him we learn the spiritual significance illustrated in the ancient feasts of Israel which prophetically foreshadowed what the Lord intended to accomplish from beginning to end through Christ our Redeemer.

The Feast of Tabernacles ends with “Yom Atzereth” meaning “the day of conclusion”. We anticipate the fulfilment of this in the re-appearing of the Lord Jesus in the full manifestation of the Father’s glory.

2 PE 3:8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

2 PE 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

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