Leviticus 23:4 (NKJV) ‘These are the feasts of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times.
The word "feasts" means: "appointed times." The word "holy convocation" means: "rehearsal." In other words, the feasts of the Lords were appointed times of worship for Israel that would serve as "dress rehearsals" in God’s prophetic calendar. Things that happen to Israel in the natural usually parallel things that happen spiritually in the church.
Fundamentally, these seven feasts represent and typify the sequence, timing, and significance of the major events of the Lord’s redemptive career. They commence at Calvary, where Jesus voluntarily gave Himself for the sins of the world (Passover), and climax at the consummation of the messianic Kingdom at the Lord’s second coming . These seven feasts depict the entire redemptive career of the Messiah.
The number "seven" is the biblical number of completion. After creating the world, God rested on the seventh day. He did not rest as a consequence of being tired omnipotence doesn’t get tired. Rather, God rested in the sense of completion and satisfaction. What God created was good and satisfying. Nothing else was needed. On the seventh day of the week, the children of Israel were to observe a Sabbath rest, patterned after God’s creation rest. They were to rest from their labors.
Seven sevens of years were to be counted (49 years), and then the next year (50th) was to be the Jubilee year in which all debts were forgiven and the slaves set free (Lev. 25:9-12).
Seventy sevens of years were determined upon the Jewish people during which time God would bring to perfection and completion His redemptive purposes (Dan 9:24-27). The book of Revelation records the consummation of the Jewish age. It uses the number seven more than 50 times.
Commenting on these feasts, one commentator writes: "Four of the seven holidays occur in the spring of the year. The fulfillment of these feasts are a "done deal." In other words, they represent events in the life of Messiah that have already taken place Death, Burial, Resurrection, and Ascension. The last three feasts occur in the fall of the year and represent events future and yet unfulfilled in Bible prophecy".
As a preterist, I believe the seven annual feasts or holy days of Old Testament Israel, which take place in the first seven months of their agricultural year, were fulfilled both prophetically and spiritually in the period from the cross to the fall of Jerusalem, which equates with the return of Jesus Christ, the end of the Jewish age, and the consummation of the kingdom of God in A.D. 70.
These feast must be viewed in their strategic order. Judaism today treats Trumpets as the New Year and that is wrong, it is not the New Year. By doing that, they can never really understand prophecy. The feasts have to be viewed in their order from Passover through Tabernacles. The feast actually convey two forty year exodus periods. The first exodus period is one familiar to all of us. Israel, after the flesh was removed from bondage, to Egypt at Passover, and they were put in the wilderness on a physical journey to a physical promise land. Now the more important and the spiritual exodus we are not so familiar with: this exodus runs from the Cross to A.D. 70. In this exodus, Israel, after the Spirit, left its bondage to the law of sin and death (Ro. 8:2) and begins a forty year spiritual journey to a spiritual inheritance, the Kingdom of God or the New Heavens and New Earth.
In the New Testament, we learn that the feasts of Israel were pictures of a spiritual reality, they were prophetic, speaking of things to come:
Colossians 2:16-17 (NKJV) So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.
Paul here calls the festivals a shadow of things to come. Hebrews 8:5 says basically the same thing:
Hebrews 8:5 (NKJV) who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, "See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain."
Shadows and patterns can teach us a lot if we follow them through:
1 Corinthians 10:11 (NKJV) Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
The "them" in this verse refers to Old Testament physical Israel. The "our" refers to New Testament spiritual Israel. The end of the ages came upon the first century saints.
The whole Levitical system was a shadow of Christ, illustrating His person and work that was to come. Jesus Himself testified to the fact that the Old Testament pointed to Him in:
John 5:39-40 (NKJV) "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 "But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.
These feasts are clustered according to the rainy season in Israel. Passover, the Feast of Unleavened bread, First fruits, and Pentecost come under a period known as the latter rain. The latter rain brings forth the beginning of the harvest, it comes in the Spring. Then you have a four month or 120 day dry season, which I believe is the building of the church between Pentecost and A.D. 70. Which is also an analogy to Noah building the arc. That also was the end of an age. Then we have the former rain that occurs during the end time Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles. Hopefully, we will see that these feast represent the fall of Jerusalem, the end of Old Covenant Israel and the establishment of the New Heavens and Earth where God’s tabernacle is with men. Hosea explains to us that the latter rain comes first, then the former rain.
Hosea 6:3 (NKJV) Let us know, Let us pursue the knowledge of the LORD. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, Like the latter and former rain to the earth.
The crops that were gathered at the beginning of the harvest season were called firstfruits (Ex. 23:16). There are the first fruits of the barley harvest, which represents Jesus Christ, and then fifty days later at Pentecost there is the first fruits of the wheat harvest, which is the church. You’ve got to get your firstfruits straight. There are two different sets of firstfruits. The crops gathered at the end of the harvest season were known as the summer fruit:
Amos 8:2 (NKJV) And He said, "Amos, what do you see?" So I said, "A basket of summer fruit." Then the LORD said to me: "The end has come upon My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore.
This has negative implications for physical Israel.
Let’s look at these seven feasts and see what we can learn from them.
Leviticus 23:5 (NKJV) ‘On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the Lord
Passover is the foundational feast. The other six feasts that follow are built upon it. Passover occurs in the spring of the year, on the 14th day of the Hebrew month, Nisan (March/April). In the same way that many colleges have academic years and businesses have fiscal years, Passover commences the RELIGIOUS year for Israel.
While the Jewish people have celebrated the Passover annually since the time of Moses, in reality, there was only ONE Passover. It occurred almost 3,500 years ago in Egypt. It was there, at that time, that a lamb was sacrificed and the blood was applied to each doorpost and lintel. When this was done in faith and in obedience to God’s command, that home was "passed over," and the life of the firstborn was spared. All subsequent observances over the centuries have been memorials of that one and only first Passover. In the same way, there was only one occasion when Jesus’ flesh was pierced and His blood spilled on the cross of Calvary for the sin of the world. The Lord’s Supper is an ongoing memorial of that one momentous occasion.
The story of the Exodus is one of the most dramatic and breathtaking accounts in all of Scripture. The Hebrews were enslaved in Egypt. Pharaoh was a harsh taskmaster. The lot of the Hebrews seemed hopeless. It was at that hour of history that God spoke to Moses from within a burning bush. The bush was burned and not consumed. Moses turned aside to see this unusual sight. >From the midst of that burning bush, God would speak to His servant and declare that Moses would lead the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage .
God would tell Moses that He had seen the affliction of His people down in Egypt, that He had heard their cry for help, and that He knew their sorrows. And now, He was bringing a deliverer to bring them out of Egyptian bondage and bring them into a Promised Land. He was bringing them out to bring them in. Some 2,000 years ago, Jesus came to earth to bring man out of his bondage and with a mighty hand brought us out of Satan’s grasp into the Promised Land..
God sent Moses to bring the nation out of bondage. At that moment, the Hebrews were a motley group of unorganized and uneducated slaves. They knew nothing on nationhood yet that would happen at Mt. Sinai. This was nothing more than a group of slaves who through the years had basically forgotten their God.
Despite their unfaithfulness, God had made a promise to Abraham. He was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He had told them their seed would be as the sand of the seashore and as the stars of heaven. This was a solemn promise. God is a covenant-keeping God. What His mouth speaks, His right arm of power performs. Despite the outward appearance, they were still His people. He was aware of their affliction, and by His reckoning, it was time for them to "pack their bags" and head for home. After 430 years in slavery, God performed His word and made good on the promise.
When Moses went to Egypt, he was not met with open arms and a nice Pharaoh. Pharaoh hardened his heart and refused to let God’s people go. And then, plague after plague was unleashed with deadly accuracy against the idolatrous land of Egypt. With each plague, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart even more. Each of the plagues were directed against an Egyptian deity, until, at last, the firstborn of each home in Egypt would perish where a lamb was not slain, and the blood was not applied. The plague reached even to the palace of Pharaoh himself. Since the pharaoh of Egypt was worshiped as a god, a god’s son would die. Finally, in desperation, Pharaoh consented to let the children of Israel go. Under Moses, the servant of the Lord, it is estimated that more than a million slaves, with all their possessions, marched past the Sphinx of Egypt into the desert. What a scene! A million emancipated slaves marching off into the desert. Unlike most ancient cities, there was no great wall surrounding the nation of Egypt. None was necessary. The inhospitable desert provided the best protection. And here were the Hebrews, walking right into it men, women, children, and livestock. Water, food, clothing and shelter; from where would these necessities come? You know the answer. The Lord God Jehovah. As David wrote in the Psalm, "Can God provide a table in the wilderness?" The answer is YES!
They knew very little of where they were going, or how they would get there. However, Moses knew the ONE who was leading them. They would cross the Red Sea, they would wander in the wilderness for forty years, and ultimately, under Joshua, enter the Promised Land.
Of the many words that would best describe what happened in Egypt 3500 years ago one word says it best REDEMPTION. The events were real, the miracles genuine all wrought by the God of the Hebrews, who was greater than all the gods of Egypt. A group of slaves were redeemed, so they could worship the true and living God. But such a redemption was not without cost. Blood was to be shed to secure their redemption. The blood of a lamb. A Passover Lamb. All of those lambs sacrificed down in Egypt (one per household) pointed to the one true Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Writing to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul draws the parallel for all time when he says, "Christ, our Passover Lamb, was sacrificed for us."(I Cor. 5:7).
John 1:28-29 (NKJV) These things were done in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. 29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
By the time of Christ, Israel after the flesh had deteriorated to a system that Paul referred to as a "bondage of corruption" (Ro. 8:21). That is Passover type language.
Notice what Peter says about the Law:
Acts 15:10-11 (NKJV) "Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 "But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they."
God uses graphic language to depict what Old Covenant Israel had deteriorated into:
Revelation 11:8 (NKJV) And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
Here we see Old Jerusalem called spiritually Sodom and Egypt, because Old Covenant Israel had become a system of bondage for the people.
The cross is the beginning of the deliverance of the bondage to the futile vain law system, or what is called the weak and beggerly elements of Judaism (Gal. 4:3 and 9).
A good statement on what Passover means to the New Covenant community is:
Romans 3:24-25 (NKJV) being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,
Jesus tied in his final Passover with a change in covenants:
Luke 22:20 (NKJV) Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.
We can see specifically what is meant here if we look at:
Hebrews 8:10-13 (NKJV) "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 11 "None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. 12 "For I will be m
erciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." 13 In that He says, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
One of the features of this New Covenant is found in verse 12: "I will remember their sins no more." Now, remember the New Covenant is not totally consummated at the cross, because the letter to the Hebrews was written approximately A.D. 62-64, and in Hebrews 8:13, He talks about the Old Covenant as still decaying and waxing old ready to vanish away.
Passover is the beginning of the redemptive process. Let’s look at the Mount of Transfiguration in:
Luke 9:29-31 (NKJV) As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. 30 And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
Moses and Elijah appear in glory and they speak of Jesus’ decease. The word for "decease" is the Greek word exodos. There was an exodus that was to begin at the cross and start another forty year journey.
2. Unleavened Bread
Leviticus 23:6 (NKJV) ‘And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; seven days you must eat unleavened bread.
God appointed another feast that was to begin the very next day after Passover, on the fifteenth of the Hebrew month, Nisan. It is called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It was to last for seven days. On the first night, and again on the seventh, there was to be a time of meeting (convocation) between God and man.
The Bible gives only three instructions for the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Special sacrifices were to be offered in the Temple each day of the feast according to Leviticus 23:8; Numbers 28:19-24.The first and seventh days of the feast were Sabbaths with prohibitions on all work, (Exodus 12:16; Leviticus 23:7-8; Numbers 28:25; Deut. 16:8).
Another requirement was the prohibition of ANY leaven. No less than six different passages emphasize the prohibition of leaven during this feast Exodus 12:14-20; 13:6-8, 23:15, 34:18; Leviticus 23:6; Deut. 16:3 & 8.
Not only is the eating of leavened foods (such as bread and rolls) forbidden during the feast, but even the presence of leaven within one’s house is unlawful. The Lord commanded Moses:
Exodus 12:15 (NKJV) ‘Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.
Disobedience to the divine command carried the death penalty. Another command stated:
Exodus 13:7 (NKJV) "Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days. And no leavened bread shall be seen among you, nor shall leaven be seen among you in all your quarters.
The extent of the restriction was further emphasized:
Deuteronomy 16:4 (NKJV) "And no leaven shall be seen among you in all your territory for seven days, nor shall any of the meat which you sacrifice the first day at twilight remain overnight until morning.
The clarity of God’s command allows no room for debate. Any leaven, no matter how small the amount or how discreet its presence, is not permitted during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It is not enough to simply refrain from eating leaven, or from touching leaven, or even from looking at leaven by storing it away in a hidden place. All leaven must be purged out. Failure to do so brought death.
This feast is celebrated today throughout the world. Observant Jewish households begin their painstaking preparations weeks before the arrival of Passover. Everything from carpets to vacuum bags are tossed out or scrubbed, scoured, cleaned, and aired in preparation. On the night before Passover eve, after evening prayers in the synagogue, the father of each household will perform the Bedikat Hametz, or "Search for Leaven" ceremony. This ancient ceremony purges the last vestiges of leaven from the house. Earlier that evening, each mother will place a few bits of bread in several corners or on window sills of the house so that there will be some leaven present to be found.
After reciting the benediction for the occasion, the father begins the search. He uses a wooden spoon in one hand and a goose feather in the other. By candlelight, he searches from room to room to discover the distributed bread camps. The children follow behind with great excitement as he carefully uses the feather to sweep the bread he finds onto a wooden spoon. Finally, the bits of bread, the wooden spoon, and the feather are placed inside a bag or wrapped in a cloth. This is tied with a thread and set aside to be burned the next morning.
This feast commemorates the Exodus. See Ex. 12:17-20; 13:6-7; Lev. 23:6-8 and:
Deuteronomy 16:3 (NKJV) "You shall eat no leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it, that is, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), that you may remember the day in which you came out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life.
Old Covenant Israel was about to begin her forty year journey out of Egypt and it was a walk to the promised land. They had to eat unleavened bread during this seven day period. When we look at some of the New Testament texts of the Last Supper, we see that Jesus identified his body with the unleavened bread. He does not identify his body with the Passover lamb. This is clear from:
Luke 22:19 (NKJV) And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me."
Why the emphasis on unleavened bread? What is the New Testament application of the concept of leaven? Sin is often pictured as leaven in scripture. The ancient rabbis also believed that "leaven represents the evil impulse of the heart".
Matthew 16:6 (NKJV) Then Jesus said to them, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees."
Leaven rapidly permeates the dough, contaminating it, souring it, fermenting it, and swelling it to many times its original size without changing its weight. Leaven pictures sin. Since this is the case and type, only unleavened bread (matzah) was used in the Temple:
Leviticus 2:11 (NKJV) ‘No grain offering which you bring to the LORD shall be made with leaven, for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey in any offering to the LORD made by fire.
As with the other feasts of the Lord in Leviticus 23, the prophetic meaning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is found in the work of the Messiah. Passover pictures the substitutionary DEATH of the Messiah as the Passover Lamb. The Feast of Unleavened Bread pictures the BURIAL of the Messiah and the feast that follows FIRSTFRUITS, pictures the RESURRECTION of the Messiah. The Hebrew prophets foretold a day when the Messiah would be a sacrifice for sin. He would be the Lamb offered up by God as the once-for-all sacrifice. The prophet declared of the Messiah:
Isaiah 53:4 (NKJV) Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.
Isaiah 53:6 (NKJV) All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
aiah 53:10 (NKJV) Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.
The Hebrew prophets also spoke of Messiah’s amazing burial. Isaiah prophesied:
Isaiah 53:9 (NKJV) And they made His grave with the wicked; But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth.
Normally, one who dies a criminal’s death receives a criminal’s burial. But this was not the case with Jesus. Jesus was executed as if He were a criminal, but God did not allow His body to be cast outside the city onto the garbage heap. Jesus was honored in His burial because He was a pure, sinless (without leaven) sacrifice. He died not for His own transgressions (He was innocent), but for ours (we are guilty). Therefore, God honored Jesus with burial in a rich man’s tomb. Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea (Matthew 27:57-60), a member of the Sanhedrin. This was God’s statement upon the innocence of Jesus.
Another key fact surrounding Jesus’s burial was the fact His body did not return to dust. King David prophesied of the Messiah:
Psalms 16:10 (NKJV) For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
Obviously, David did not prophesy this about himself. His grave has been a revered site in Jerusalem for nearly 3,000 years. David’s body did decay (as has the body of every other person who has died in history), but Jesus’ body did not decay! The sons of Adam were sinners under the divine curse: "To dust you shall return" (Gen. 3:19). As a pure, sinless sacrifice, Jesus was not under the curse to return to dust. Therefore, Jesus came forth from the grave on the third day, after he had carried our sins far away!
Psalms 103:12 (NKJV) As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Hebrews 9:26 (NKJV) He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
Jesus fulfilled the Feast of Unleavened Bread in that He was a pure, sinless (without leaven) sacrifice. God validated this by Jesus’ burial in a rich man’s tomb. Furthermore, the body of Jesus was not permitted to decay in the grave, but was brought forth, because He was not a sinner under the curse of death and decay.
Paul embraced the Feast of Unleavened Bread in his exhortation to the Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 5:5-8 (NKJV) deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 6 Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 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. 8 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.
Paul’s message is simple and direct. For believers who have, by faith, accepted the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb at Calvary, Passover is past history. The deliverance of Jesus, the true Passover Lamb, has already been experienced in their lives. They are now living in the Feast of Unleavened Bread, where purity and separation from leaven is required.
Leviticus 23:10-11 (NKJV) "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. 11 ‘He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.
The third feast occurs on the SECOND day of the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread. It is called the FEAST OF FIRSTFRUITS. Passover occurs on the 14th, Unleavened Bread occurs on the 15th (and lasts till the 22nd); and "Firstfruits", by Jewish reckoning, occurs on the 16th day of the Hebrew month, Nisan.
The barley harvest the first crop planted in the winter is now, in the spring, beginning to ripen. The first sheaf (Firstfruits) of the harvest is cut and, in a carefully prescribed and meticulous ceremony, presented to the Lord. The Lord’s acceptance of the Firstfruits is an "earnest," or pledge, on His part of a full harvest. As to the significance of the Feast of Firstfruits, as with the other feasts, there is no room for doubt or speculation. This occurs in the midst of the week of unleavened bread. It occurs right after the Passover Sabbath in the week of unleavened bread, and it represents Christ’s resurrection:
1 Corinthians 15:20 (NKJV) But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Note, this is the firstfruits of the barley harvest. This is a reference to Jesus Christ and his resurrection. The firstfruits were transferred to the Lord and an assurance of Divine blessing on the harvest. That is reiterated in:
Romans 11:16 (NKJV) For if the first fruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches.
The firstfruit consecrates the harvest. The word for "firstfruit" is the Hebrew word re’shiyth, which means: "the choicest of the choice". Jesus is really the first of the first fruits:
Exodus 23:19 (NKJV) "The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring into the house of the LORD your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.
Ezekiel 44:30 (NKJV) "The best of all firstfruits of any kind, and every sacrifice of any kind from all your sacrifices, shall be the priest’s; also you shall give to the priest the first of your ground meal, to cause a blessing to rest on your house.
Usually it is flesh that is waved, but here it is barley as if to say that God is getting away from the fleshly system.
Passover pictures the substitutionary DEATH of Jesus as the Passover Lamb. The Feast of Unleavened Bread pictures the BURIAL of Jesus, this feast was to take place the day after Passover – Jesus was buried the next day. FIRSTFRUITS pictures the RESURRECTION of the Messiah. This feast took place on the second day of firstfruits or the third day after Passover. Jesus rose the third day. Are these just coincidence, or was God teaching us the history of redemption?
Other lessons by David Curtis can be found at http://www.bereanbiblechurch.org/