The Festivals Picture God's Plan


From the book,
WHAT  IN  THE  WORLD  IS  GOD  DOING?
An Introduction to the Mind of God
by Jack M. Lane

Copyright © 2007 by Jack M. Lane. All rights reserved.

This article may be reproduced in its entirety, along with its identification of title, author, and web site. 
The URL for this article is:  http://www.LivingTheWay.org/ch7.html


This chapter out of a book I wrote (now out of print) describes the festivals of ancient Israel and their significance to the Christian life and the plan of God. What the nation of Isreal was picturing anciently, and what more people are discovering today, is a detailed Christology and the steps God is taking to bring His plan for humankind to its finish. To observe the annual holy days is to walk through the plan of God every year. By doing so, we can grow in understanding of what in the world God is doing!



 

Chapter 7. The Festivals Picture God’s Plan

 

These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the LORD, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies (Leviticus 23:2)

 


          How many of us remember, as a little child, participating in the annual Christmas pageant at our local church? I remember it as though it was only, oh, about 50 years ago! I remember being one of the angels in the Christmas play, along with several other children in the Sunday School.  We went through the rehearsals with no real problems.  Mary and Joseph came to town, found accommodations in the barn, had their little Baby, and the angels came and sang something or other.  That’s when all us little angels would be trotted out on stage to do our lines.

          It was kind of “iffy” to begin with, having me as one of the angels.  If Dennis the Menace ever had a real-life counterpart, that would have been me. I was a rambunctious little fellow. So it was with a certain amount of bravery that the director of the church play cast me as one of the angels. I suppose the theory was that if I were in a group I couldn’t be too much trouble. Actually, I wasn’t too much trouble during the play – but neither was I entirely trouble-free.

          One thing the director of the play had neglected to consider was doing a dress rehearsal. Big mistake! We little kids had not rehearsed the play in costume. That’s where the trouble really began.

          Before the actual play was to begin, we little children were backstage being outfitted in our costumes.  Rehearsals had gone well, so no one was expecting any trouble.  But we had not been introduced to our costumes earlier! As I saw the other little angels being dressed in their robes, I was horrified to watch as their massive wings were being pinned onto their backs and shoulders.  Of course, there was some way to affix the wings without actually harming the children, but at my tender young age I wasn’t aware of this.  All I could see was the huge wings being pinned directly into the other children’s backs and shoulders.  I was amazed they were not screaming in pain!

          Then the adults turned and came toward me. It was time for them to gouge out my back and shoulders with those huge wings! I made it perfectly clear to everyone within earshot that I had no intention of putting on those wings! Nothing could be done to reassure me that it was a painless procedure. I was simply not going to do it!

          Imagine the chuckles that rippled through the audience when the angels came out to sing their song. One of the angels (me) was without wings! The members of the audience, who knew me all too well, apparently thought it was appropriate that, out of all the angels, I was the one who had not earned my wings! Somehow, it was all so fitting and proper that the show went on in spite of my lack of wings.

 

Annual rehearsals of important events

          What do you suppose is accomplished by having the children act out the story of Jesus’ birth every year? It helps to drum into their little minds the message that Jesus was born, and because of that some pretty wonderful things were able to happen, including the acceptance of mankind into God’s grace, the forgiveness of sins, the salvation of mankind, and eternal life for those who would have it. The message of the angels was this: “Suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, On earth peace, good will toward men’” (Luke 2:13-14). But the birth of Christ is only one step in God’s master plan for all humankind, to create an eternal family for Himself.

          At the church I attended as a youth, in the days approaching Easter, Christ’s suffering and crucifixion were portrayed by following the Stations of the Cross.  These were 14 placards placed throughout the church building, and during the Lenten season the priest and his assistants would go from station to station, reciting the scriptures of Christ’s final walk to Calvary, His crucifixion, His death, and His burial. These Stations of the Cross also served as an annual reminder, this time bringing to mind the seriousness of what our Savior had to suffer for us.

          There are other annual observances held in various churches, also to remind the people of other important things that occurred in the life of Christ and the church. All these annual observances serve to help people, young and old, keep in mind what important things have taken place in history.

          God has given us a series of reminders of His overall plan in the scriptures. As important as Christ’s birth and death are to the plan of God, they don’t tell the whole story. Of course, Christ was born and died so He could be our Savior. But then what? Without observing God’s commanded festivals, without hearing the annual re-enactments and retelling of the stories of God’s holy days, how can anyone truly know God’s plan?

          I will go so far as to state that, unless people are observing the festivals of God, they will not be able to fully understand the overall plan of God. There is so much meaning revealed in each of the festivals, and there is so much meaning hidden from those who don’t observe them. They’re not “Jewish holidays”; they’re God’s holy days. Let’s look at them and see their significance in understanding God’s plan.

          In the book of Leviticus, chapter 23, we find a listing of all the holy days, or festivals, of God. If you would truly seek to understand the plan of God, these holy days are key to your understanding. You may want to give some serious thought to adding these observances into your calendar of worship.

          When reading these scriptures, don’t be thrown off by the biblical references to the various months. The calendar used by ancient Israel was not the same as our calendar today. For example, when the Bible says one of the holy days is to be observed on the first day of the seventh month, it doesn’t mean September 1. The ancient lunar/solar calendar used by Israel began in the spring, around the time of the spring equinox. The seventh month would be seven months following the beginning of the year in spring.

 

The first appointed feast

          In Leviticus chapter 23, “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them: “These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the LORD [not feasts of the Jews], which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies. There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the LORD. These are the LORD’s appointed feasts, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times”‘“ (Verses 1-4).

          Two things are noteworthy.  First, God tells Moses to speak these things to the Israelites. Many people think this lets all the rest of us off the hook: “Aren’t these appointed feasts only for Israel? If so, we certainly are not under any obligation to observe them today!” However, let’s stop to consider that Moses had no one else but Israel to talk to! He was leading them through the wilderness into the promised land! Does that mean God intended these festivals only for Israel? Why do you suppose we have the Old Testament scriptures in our Bibles? It’s because God thinks the Old Testament scriptures are relevant to us and our lives!

          We should notice that these feasts were never revoked in scripture. They are still just as valid today as they were back in the wilderness. We should also keep in mind that God’s laws were not just temporary rules for Israel, but His permanent legal framework for humankind for all time. God didn’t set down laws at one time just to repeal them at another time. His laws are not arbitrary; they reflect what He, as our Father, considers to be best for us. We should also be aware that the New Covenant church (or, as I prefer to call it, the ekklesia) is considered to be “spiritual Israel,” as outlined elsewhere in this book. The feasts were indeed for Israel long ago, but they are also for “spiritual Israel” today.

          The other noteworthy thing about the first four verses of Leviticus 23 is that the weekly Sabbath is listed as one of God’s appointed feasts. Was this weekly festival only for Israel?

          God did not establish the Sabbath in Leviticus 23 at the time He gave the list of feasts. God did not establish the Sabbath at Mount Sinai at the time He gave the Ten Commandments. God established the Sabbath at Creation Week!

          “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day [at that time] and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done” (Genesis 2:2-3).

          The fourth commandment shows that the Sabbath was already in existence from creation week and was known to the Israelites. The Commandment says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” – not at Mt. Sinai, but during Creation Week (Exodus 20:8-11)!

          The Sabbath is a weekly re-enactment, a weekly remembrance of God as Creator. We look back to Creation Week and worship God as Creator. Not only that, but we also look forward to the future, when Christ will return and establish His kingdom on the earth for the 1,000-year period often called the Millennium, which follows after the current 6,000 years (approximately) of human history. The Millennium, then, is a type of the seventh-day Sabbath because it will be the seventh thousand-year period.

          Anciently, during the Exodus, God decided not to bring Moses’ generation of Israelites into the promised land because they did not believe what God was telling them. He did not bring them into His “rest.” However, Christians are called into God’s “rest,” as we read in Hebrews chapter four:

          “God’s promise of entering his place of rest still stands, so you ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to get there. For this Good News – that God has prepared a place of rest – has been announced to us just as it was to them [ancient Israel]. But it did them no good because they didn’t believe what God told them. For only we who believe can enter his place of rest. As for those who didn’t believe, God said, ‘In my anger I made a vow: They will never enter my place of rest,’ even though his place of rest has been ready since he made the world. We know it is ready because the Scriptures mention the seventh day, saying, ‘On the seventh day God rested from all his work.’ But in the other passage God said, ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’ So God’s rest is there for people to enter But those who formerly heard the Good News [ancient Israel] failed to enter because they disobeyed God. So God set another time for entering his place of rest, and that time is today. God announced this through David a long time later in the words already quoted: ‘Today you must listen to his voice. Don’t harden your hearts against him.’

          “This new place of rest was not the land of Canaan, where Joshua led them [following the death of Moses]. If it had been, God would not have spoken later about another day of rest. So there is a Sabbath rest [literally, a keeping of a Sabbath – the Greek word is sabbatismos] still waiting for the people of God. For all who enter into God’s rest will find rest from their labors, just as God rested after creating the world. Let us do our best to enter that place of rest. For anyone who disobeys God, as the people of Israel did, will fall” (Hebrews 4:1-11, NLT).

          This passage is a little hard to unravel. Here’s what it says, in a nutshell: In Moses’ day, Israel was given a chance to enter into God’s rest by being led out of slavery in Egypt into their own promised land, flowing with milk and honey. But that generation of Israelites failed because of their unbelief – they didn’t believe God could lead them into the land and drive out the inhabitants. So God returned the people to the wilderness to wander for 40 years.

          Joshua led the next generation of Israelites into the promised land, strong young people who were more willing to believe and obey God, and who were better equipped to conquer the land.

          Later on, in righteous King David’s day, God gave Israel another opportunity to repent and come to Him.

          Then the book of Hebrews says we Christians also have an opportunity to enter into God’s rest. For this reason, there remains for the Christian the keeping of the Sabbath, because by resting on the Sabbath we come out of our labor, just as God came out of His on the seventh day of creation week. When we rest on the Sabbath we show that we have entered God’s rest.

          This weekly festival reminds us of God as Creator, God as the giver of rest, and Christ as the Ruler of the world following His triumphant return from heaven. Sabbath keepers rehearse this important festival every week.

 

Passover season

          Continuing in the list of feasts in Leviticus 23: “The LORD’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of that month the LORD’s Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. For seven days present an offering made to the LORD by fire. And on the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work” (verses 5-8).

          It shouldn’t come as a surprise to Christians that the Passover lamb was a direct picture of the slain Messiah, Jesus Christ. There is a well-known hymn, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today, Halleluiah!”  This hymn is a joyous statement of fact for the Christian. Jesus is, indeed, risen from the dead, and is alive today! And because He rose from the dead, He became the firstborn Son of God (Romans 1:4), and the firstborn of many brethren to be born, or resurrected, from the dead (Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5). It is through the blood of the Messiah that we have been justified to God, but it is through His life that we are saved (Romans 5:6-10).

          But what does this have to do with the Passover? Remember that Jesus, His apostles, and the early ekklesia were entirely Jewish. All the converts who came into the body of Christ for the first several years were Jewish! Up until the time Peter was sent to Cornelius the Roman, and salvation was extended to the Gentiles (Acts 10 & 11), it was a natural assumption that this new “sect of the Nazarenes” was simply an extension of the faith of Moses! Those who came into fellowship with the apostles and disciples had the background of Moses and the Prophets. They would come to understand a great many things about Yeshua HaMashiac (Jesus the Messiah) that showed that He fulfilled the prophecies of the coming Savior.

          One of the holiest times of the year for observant Jews was, and continues to be, the springtime festival of Passover. The festival season consists of the day of Passover followed by seven days when unleavened bread is eaten. Passover commemorates the tenth plague on Egypt in Moses’ day, when God passed harmlessly over the houses of Israel but continued on to slaughter the firstborn of Egypt. The following morning Moses led the nation of Israel out of its slavery in Egypt. This is commemorated annually by the celebration of Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. Often, the entire eight-day period is simply referred to as Passover.

          The first day of unleavened bread is a holy day (Exodus 12:1-20; Leviticus 23:4-8). On that day, leavening agents are to be removed from the home, symbolizing Israel’s exodus out of Egypt. The seventh day of unleavened bread is also a holy day. During those seven days, no leavened products (foods containing yeast) may be eaten or stored in the house. This commemorates how the Israelites left Egypt hurriedly and didn’t have the time to allow their bread dough to rise.

          It was an appealing idea to the Jewish converts in the first century A.D. that Jesus fulfilled the role of the Passover lamb. John the Baptist “saw Jesus coming to him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ … Again, the next day, John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’” (John 1:29, 35-36).

          After Christ’s resurrection and ascension to heaven, the early church continued to observe the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, but with a new understanding of its true significance. Christ was the Passover sacrifice, who took away our sins, and the Days of Unleavened Bread show our exodus out of slavery to sin (see Romans 6). Paul wrote, “Purge out the old yeast, that you may be a new lump, even as you are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed in our place. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old yeast, neither with the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).

          Paul was encouraging the Corinthian church, a largely Gentile congregation, to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because Christ is our Passover! It was the custom of the early church to observe the annual holy days God had established in Leviticus 23. This practice persisted up until the time it was outlawed by the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. After that time, Christians had to either give up the Holy Days or flee to the extremes of the Roman Empire where they could practice their religion in relative safety.

          What else did the first century church know about this Lamb of God? Like the Passover lamb, our Redeemer had to be without spot or defect (Exodus 12:5). Peter wrote, “knowing that you were redeemed, not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, from the useless way of life handed down from your fathers, but with precious blood, as of a faultless and pure lamb, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

          To redeem means to buy back. We had been sold to sin. “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am fleshly, sold under sin” (Romans 7:14).

          Christ redeemed us, or bought us back, through His shed blood. We are “the assembly of the Lord and God which he purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).

          If we have been purchased, we belong to our new Owner! “But now, being made free from sin, and having become servants of God, you have your fruit of sanctification, and the result of eternal life” (Romans 6:22).

          The elderly apostle John was given an amazing series of visions. These visions make up the biblical book of Revelation. Notice chapter five of this amazing story.

          “I saw, in the right hand of him who sat on the throne, a book written inside and outside, sealed shut with seven seals. I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the book, and to break its seals?’ No one in heaven above, or on the earth, or under the earth, was able to open the book, or to look in it. And I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open the book, or to look in it.

          “One of the elders said to me, ‘Don’t weep. Behold, the Lion who is of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome; he who opens the book and its seven seals.’ I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, having seven horns, and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. Then he came, and he took it out of the right hand of him who sat on the throne.

          “Now when he had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. They sang a new song, saying, ‘You are worthy to take the book, And to open its seals: For you were killed, And bought us for God with your blood, Out of every tribe, language, people, and nation, And made them kings and priests to our God, And they reign on earth.’

          “I saw, and I heard something like a voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousands of ten thousands, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who has been killed to receive the power, wealth, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, and blessing!’ I heard every created thing which is in heaven, on the earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb be the blessing, the honor, the glory, and the dominion, forever and ever! Amen!’ The four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ The elders fell down and worshiped” (Revelation chapter five).

          It’s a marvelous picture of the glory of our risen Lord Jesus Christ. Because of His shed blood, and because of His life, we – you and I – have the potential to live as kings and priests, reigning on the earth, with this glorious risen Lamb!

 

Children of God

          But we must begin somewhere. That somewhere is at the foot of the cross. Christ’s death and resurrection is the doorway, or the gate, we need to go through to become children of God (John 10:7-10).  

          “Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; through whom we also have our access by faith into this grace in which we stand. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. … For while we were yet weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man. Yet perhaps for a righteous person someone would even dare to die. But God commends his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we will be saved from God’s wrath through him. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we will be saved by his life” (Romans 5:1-2, 6-10).

          When we repent and accept Christ as our Savior, our Redeemer, and our Lord, we become reconciled to God. God accepts us as His children, and we can begin to call Him our Father. “For you are all children of God, through faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26).

          We look forward to completing our time of service in this life and going on to the next life.     “Those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead … can’t die any more, for they are like the angels, and are children of God, being children of the resurrection” (Luke 20:35-36).

          We await our glorious resurrection, to join our Father and our Savior in glory for eternity. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are children of God. For you didn’t receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God; and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if indeed we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which will be revealed toward us. For the creation waits with eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of decay into the liberty of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:14-21).

          When we observe the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, we look back to the first Passover in Egypt, followed by the Exodus.  We also look back to the crucifixion of our Savior Jesus Christ, and to our present exodus out of the world of sin, on our way to the resurrection to immortality.  It’s an annual reminder that we are pilgrims and sojourners who must always look to God as our leader through the wilderness of this life.

 

The wave sheaf and Pentecost

          The next passage in Leviticus 23 is rather lengthy. Briefly summarizing, verses 9-21 tell this story: “When you … harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. He is to wave the sheaf before the LORD so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath. … From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD. From wherever you live, bring two loaves … of fine flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the LORD. … On that same day you are to proclaim a sacred assembly and do no regular work. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. …”

          This passage gives instructions for a Levitical priest (a priest of Israel) to wave a sheaf of grain (the Hebrew would be better translated “elevate an omer of grain” – about two and a half liters). Fifty days later is the Feast of Firstfruits, often called Pentecost (meaning “count 50”). 

          The sheaf represents Christ (Acts 26:23; Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 15:20-23; Colossians 1:18; Hebrews 1:6). The Mishnah, a Jewish collection of writings compiled after the first century A.D., describes how a messenger would go out and bind the standing stalks of grain into sheaves so that it would be easy to cut. On the appropriate Sabbath day, just at sundown, the priest, followed by his entourage, would come to the field, sickle in hand, and ask, “Is the sun set?”, to which the people would answer, “Yes!!” “Shall I reap?” “Reap!!” The priest would cut off a standing stalk of grain, then someone would take it to be prepared for the offering the next morning.

          The following morning, the omer of grain was elevated in a priestly ceremony. In one particular year, as the offering of grain was raised and then lowered on the first day of the week, so the resurrected Christ ascended to heaven that same morning as the fulfillment of the Wave Sheaf Offering, yet He returned to earth that same day (John 20:16-19; Matthew 28:9-10). The wave sheaf offering, or the omer of grain elevated to be accepted by God, represented the risen Christ rising to heaven, to His Father, and His return to earth to continue His mission of establishing His church.

          During the elevation offering on the wave sheaf day, the priest elevates the omer of grain “to be accepted for you” (Leviticus 23:11, KJV) or “so it will be accepted on your behalf” (NIV), or “that you may find acceptance” (NRSV). This is not an offering so that the Messiah would be accepted, but rather that the ekklesia (physical Israel then, spiritual Israel now) would be accepted. If Christ ascended at the moment of the wave offering, as it appears He did, the grain offering would represent the risen Christ ascending to heaven briefly and our being accepted by God.

          We have no physical Levitical priesthood today, so there is no priest to elevate the omer of grain.  However, we still use the day of the offering to begin the count to Pentecost.

          The day of the elevation offering began the count toward the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost. By observing the wave offering, one could anticipate Pentecost 50 days later. If the elevation offering represents Christ’s resurrection, once we have participated in the picture of His death and resurrection (see Romans 6) we are, in effect, eagerly “counting the days” until our own resurrection and rising in the air (1 Corinthians 15; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). This is pictured on the day of Pentecost by the leavened loaves of bread elevated by the priest (Leviticus 23:15-17).

          Of great significance to the New Testament ekklesia is the fact that the Holy Spirit came to the assembled saints on the day of Pentecost, shortly after Christ ascended to heaven. If any of the saints had not been there, they would not have received the great gifts given through the Spirit. But they were all there. “Now when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all with one accord in one place. Suddenly there came from the sky a sound like the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. Tongues like fire appeared and were distributed to them, and one sat on each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other languages, as the Spirit gave them the ability to speak” (Acts 2:1-4).

          Quite a crowd assembled because they had heard this great sound (verse 6). Peter took advantage of the opportunity to preach a powerful message about Jesus the Messiah. “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all who are far off, even as many as the Lord our God will call to himself.’ With many other words he testified, and exhorted them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this crooked generation!’ Then those who gladly received his word were baptized. There were added that day about three thousand souls” (verses 37-41)!

          In this present human life, we celebrate Pentecost as the day God began calling individuals out of the world and into His ekklesia. But Pentecost also represents the day we will come to life and rise from our graves to meet our Lord at His return, then stand with Him on the earth at the beginning of His rule during the Millennium (Acts 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 14:1-5).

By observing Pentecost, we commemorate the calling out of multitudes of people into the faith throughout the ages, and we look forward to our resurrection with them to meet the Lord in the air. Truly, Pentecost can be called “the birthday of the church”!

 

Trumpets: The Feast of Acclamation

          Leviticus 23 then outlines the next feast day:  “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites: “On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. Do no regular work, but present an offering made to the LORD by fire”‘“ (verses 23-25).

          This day is often called the Feast of Trumpets, because of the reference in the English language Bibles to blowing trumpets on that day. The picture of blowing trumpets on this day brings to mind the verse that says Christ will return “at the last trumpet”:

          “Behold, I tell you a mystery. We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this corruptible will have put on incorruption, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then what is written will happen: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’” (1 Corinthians 15:51-54).

          What trumpets are these? John saw trumpets in his vision of the end times: “When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them” (Revelation 8:1-2). When John heard these trumpets sound, one at a time, in his vision, remarkable things happened. What about the “last trumpet”? “The seventh angel sounded, and great voices in heaven followed, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ. He will reign forever and ever!’” (Revelation 11:15). At that moment, God lays claim as property owner of the entire planet! From that time forward, God takes steps to claim His rightful property.

          It’s easy to see how this day would represent Christ’s return “at the last trumpet.” But there’s more! The phrase “blowing of trumpets” is translated from one Hebrew word, teruwah. This word does not refer specifically to trumpets. Rather, the word primarily means a clamor, or a shout of joy, or a battle cry, or a blast. The King James Version translates this word in several ways, including “alarm,” “joy,” “jubilee,” “loud noise,” and “rejoicing.” Another definition is “acclamation”! 

          Many scriptures differentiate between the sound of trumpets and the sound of teruwah. The sounds involved can be from a variety of sources: from happiness, from alarm, or from the sound of battle. The English words in these verses which are translated from the Hebrew word teruwah are in italics in the following quotations.

          The first example occurs at the famous Battle of Jericho: “When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city [Jericho] will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in. … When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city” (Joshua 6:5, 20).

          Here the word “shouted” is in past tense.  The Hebrew here is not teruwah, but the root word from which it comes, ruwa’. Ruwa’ is a verb. It means to mar, or break, as if someone is splitting your ears by shouting. We might say the Israelites made an ear-splitting noise.

          Here is an example from the time the Ark of the Covenant was being brought to its new home in Jerusalem: “Now [King] David was clothed in a robe of fine linen, as were all the Levites who were carrying the ark, and as were the singers, and Kenaniah, who was in charge of the singing of the choirs. David also wore a linen ephod. So all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD with shouts, with the sounding of rams’ horns and trumpets, and of cymbals, and the playing of lyres and harps. As the ark of the covenant of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal [David’s wife] daughter of [King] Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David dancing and celebrating, she despised him in her heart” (1 Chronicles 15:27-29).

          This was a day of tremendous jubilation for almost everyone. The King was out dancing and rejoicing, but the “First Lady” wasn’t too happy about it. Even King David had family problems.

          One of the best examples of teruwah is found in Ezra 3. Ezra led the people of Judah when they returned from captivity in Babylon. One of the first orders of business was to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.

          “When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the LORD, as prescribed by David king of Israel. With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the LORD: ‘He is good; his love to Israel endures forever.’ And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away” (Ezra 3:10-13). 

          This is raw emotion. The people had returned to their land. Many of the elderly were young when they were originally deported, and now they were back, and the temple of God was again going to rise into the sky. There was so much in the way of cheering, and at the same time so much in the way of weeping and wailing, so much mirth and excitement mixed with anguish. We don’t even have a word to describe it. The Hebew language does. This is teruwah. 

          Here are some other examples of teruwah in action:

          “He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy” (Job 8:21).

          “He prays to God and finds favor with him, he sees God’s face and shouts for joy; he is restored by God to his righteous state” (Job 33:26).

          “Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD” (Psalm 27:6).

          “Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy” (Psalm 33:3).

          “God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets” (Psalm 47:5).

          “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD” (Psalm 89:15). The New King James Version says, “Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound”!

          But as we progress through the scriptures, we begin to see the other side of this word. 

          “Oh, my anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain. Oh, the agony of my heart! My heart pounds within me, I cannot keep silent. For I have heard the sound of the trumpet; I have heard the battle cry” (Jeremiah 4:19).

          “Into his right hand will come the lot for Jerusalem, where he is to set up battering rams, to give the command to slaughter, to sound the battle cry, to set battering rams against the gates, to build a ramp and to erect siege works” (Ezekiel 21:22).

          “I will send fire upon Moab that will consume the fortresses of Kerioth. Moab will go down in great tumult amid war cries and the blast of the trumpet” (Amos 2:2).

          “The great day of the LORD is near – near and coming quickly. Listen! The cry on the day of the LORD will be bitter, the shouting of the warrior there. That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness, a day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the corner towers” (Zephaniah 1:14-16).

          These are pretty grisly scriptures, but they tell the other side of the story about this word. If this festival day is a memorial of teruwah, it’s a memorial of a lot of shouting, whether it’s because of war or from sheer joyful exhilaration! 

          While the scriptures that refer to teruwah show that the word doesn’t specifically refer to a trumpet, the trumpets are usually there with whatever is taking place, whether it’s a battle cry, an invading army, or an occasion of great joy and celebration. If teruwah means acclamation and noise-making, we can see how that would apply also to Messiah’s coming in power and glory. 

          The Feast of Trumpets represents one of the most powerful, dramatic, catastrophic days in the history of humankind, and yet, at the same time, the greatest day in all of human history! Right on the heels of the most destructive and cruel tribulation in history, God will send the most devastating plagues on those human beings who have accepted “the mark of the Beast.” At the same time, the Father will send Christ to intervene personally in the direction world history is taking. His return will be announced by a tremendous trumpet blast. 

          As Jesus predicted, “But immediately after the oppression of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Matthew 24:29). This is a description of the sixth seal in the book of Revelation, which is the heavenly signs. Jesus continued, “and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky. Then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. He will send out his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together his chosen ones from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (verses 30-31). That’s a pretty exciting time ahead of us. 

          Paul wrote, in one of his epistles, “Behold, I tell you a mystery. We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. … Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52, 58).

          In another place Paul writes, “But we don’t want you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning those who have fallen asleep [those who have died], so that you don’t grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so those who have fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we tell you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left to the coming of the Lord, will in no way precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with God’s trumpet. The dead in Christ will rise first, then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. So we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

          When we observe the Feast of Trumpets, a day of acclamation, we foreshadow a shout, the voice of an archangel, and the trumpet of God, three sounds that will accompany the return of our Messiah. If you could place yourself in that scene, on planet earth, following years of world war and great tribulation, signs in the heavens, and the seven last plagues, then suddenly you saw what might be an invader from outer space, do you suppose the people would be so frightened by all this that they would respond with a great teruwah – a great noise, a battle cry, an alarm?  Let’s also imagine that, elsewhere on earth, there may be thousands of God’s people waiting. When they look up and see the long-awaited return of their Messiah, their Savior, do you think they might also begin to cheer, and shout, and yell, and scream? Here, too, would be the sound of teruwah – a shout that accompanies Christ’s return. It may be difficult to tell who is shouting for joy and who is shouting in great fear and calamity, as it was in Jerusalem in the days of Ezra.

          It reminds me of a verse from an old song: “When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation, When He returns, what joy shall fill my heart! Then I shall bow in humble adoration, And there proclaim, ‘My God, how great Thou art.’” 

 

The Day of Atonement

          Leviticus 23 continues with the next feast: “The LORD said to Moses, ‘The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves [that is, abstain from food and water], and present an offering made to the LORD by fire. Do no work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the LORD your God. Anyone who does not deny himself on that day must be cut off from his people. I will destroy from among his people anyone who does any work on that day. You shall do no work at all. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. It is a sabbath of rest for you, and you must deny yourselves. From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your sabbath’” (verses 26-32).

          This is an unusual feast day, because it is also a fast day. We abstain from eating and drinking for 24 hours to remind us that we need physical sustenance in this life, and to help us look forward to the day we will be born in the spirit, when we will no longer need physical food, when we will be immortal children of God.

          In order to understand the significance of this feast day (which is also a fast day), we need to look in chapter 16 of Leviticus.  Here God tells Moses that Aaron (Moses’ brother, and the first high priest of Israel) is to take two goats on this day and cast lots between the two.  One goat will be for the Lord, while the other goat will be for “Azazel.” The meaning of this word is uncertain, but generally means this goat will be removed from the camp of Israel. The goat for the Lord is sacrificed, while the goat for Azazel will be used for making atonement and will be sent into the desert. Aaron (or a descendant of Aaron) is to take the blood of the sacrificed goat into the Holy of Holies, the most sacred inner chamber of the Tabernacle, to sprinkle on the Ark of the Covenant as an atonement for the sins of the people. He then takes some of the blood out to the altar to cleanse the altar from the uncleanness of the people.

          Aaron (or whoever the high priest is at the time) next lays his hands on the other goat and pronounces the wickedness and rebellion of the people onto that goat, which will then be led out into the wilderness.

          What does all this ceremony have to do with God’s plan? The first goat, the one which was slain, whose blood was taken into the Holy of Holies and placed on the Ark of the Covenant, represented “Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, angels and authorities and powers being made subject to him” (1 Peter 3:21-22). Because Christ’s blood atoned for our sins, we can live in confidence that we are a part of God’s plan. “This confidence is like a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain of heaven into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal high priest” (Hebrews 6:19-20, NLT).

          Under the human high priests in ancient Israel, there needed to be a change of personnel occasionally. “Many, indeed, have been made priests, because they are hindered from continuing by death. [The priests grew old and died!] But he [Jesus], because he lives forever, has his priesthood unchangeable. Therefore he is also able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them. For such a high priest was fitting for us: holy, guiltless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who doesn’t need, like those high priests, to daily offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. For this he did once for all, when he offered up himself. [The priestly sacrifices were done daily, foreshadowing Christ’s one-time sacrifice of Himself.] For the law appoints men as high priests who have weakness, but the word of the oath [from God, declaring His Son to be High Priest] which came after the law appoints a Son forever who has been perfected” (Hebrews 7:23-28).

          On the Day of Atonement, the high priest in ancient Israel would take the blood of the first goat into the Holy of Holies. That represented the risen Christ Himself entering heaven to present His own sacrifice to the Father to cleanse us of our sins.

          The other goat, who had the sins of the people pronounced over him, was led out into the wilderness and released. This goat also represents Christ, this time in his role as our sin-bearer. Rather than being sacrificed by fire, this goat was designated to take the sins of the people and go away, removing those sins from the people. This one offering consists of two goats, showing that it is a two-part offering (Leviticus 16:5). It demonstrates for us how our Savior both takes away the sin of the world and dies so that his shed blood atones for our sins. Two goats were needed to act out both parts of this single offering.

          When we observe the Day of Atonement, we fast in order to humble ourselves before God. We recall the two goats, and the part they play in picturing the removal of our sin and the forgiveness of our guilt. We remember that Jesus is alive today, and that He is on the job every day in heaven as our High Priest.

          “Let us therefore draw near with boldness to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace for help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

 

The Feast of Tabernacles

          Continuing in Leviticus 23: “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites: “On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the LORD’s Feast of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days. The first day is a sacred assembly; do no regular work. For seven days present offerings made to the LORD by fire, and on the eighth day hold a sacred assembly and present an offering made to the LORD by fire. It is the closing assembly; do no regular work. … the first day is a day of rest, and the eighth day also is a day of rest. On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. Celebrate this as a festival to the LORD for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month. Live in booths for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in booths so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the LORD your God”‘“ (verses 33-43).

          What does the Feast of Tabernacles represent?  At its most basic level, it’s a fall harvest festival, celebrating the abundance of God’s blessings in connection with the ingathering of the fall harvest. It’s also a memorial of the Exodus, when the Israelites wandered in the wilderness and lived in tabernacles, or tents, on their way to the promised land. It represents faith in God’s protection and promises. In addition, the Feast of Tabernacles looks forward to the great ingathering of believers after the return of Christ, during the time of His millennial rule on earth.

          But what of the prophetic significance or typology of the Feast of Tabernacles? The final feast brings to a close the annual cycle that pictures God’s plan.  To review what led up to this festival: Passover shows Christ dying for our sins; Unleavened Bread shows our coming out of spiritual bondage to sin; Pentecost shows the beginnings of the ekklesia and the giving of God’s Spirit; Trumpets shows the second coming of Christ; Atonement shows the complete removal and covering of our sins. What’s left? What still needs to be fulfilled in God’s plan?

          When Christ returns, the dead in Christ shall rise first and meet Him in the air and will always be with Him. Christ and the resurrected saints will then begin to rule this planet, putting down all enemies. Satan will be chained for the duration of the Millennium, and the resurrected sons of God will set about the business of rightly governing the nations of this world. The Feast of Tabernacles represents 1,000 years of peace and harmony on earth.

          Comparing scriptures and history, it appears that Jesus was born during or near the fall holy day period. This was the first coming of Christ.  Just as tabernacles or tents are temporary dwellings, Jesus dwelt among us in a temporary dwelling, His mortal body, when He came to tabernacle among us (John 1:14).  The symbolism of Tabernacles, however, will be fulfilled at Christ’s second coming, when He will once again tabernacle among men, this time as the King of kings and Lord of lords, the mighty Ruler, finally providing a millennial rest for all mankind and the earth (see Hebrews 4).

          When we observe the Feast of Tabernacles, we are observing one of the pilgrimage festivals, meeting together before God for eight days, living in temporary dwellings as we look to the future and the triumphant return of our Lord and Savior to rule the world in peace for a thousand years.

 

The Eighth Day Solemn Assembly

There is something interesting about the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles. What is interesting is that there is an eighth day! “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites: “On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the LORD's Feast of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days. The first day is a sacred assembly; do no regular work. For seven days present offerings made to the LORD by fire, and on the eighth day hold a sacred assembly and present an offering made to the LORD by fire. It is the closing assembly; do no regular work”’” (Leviticus 23:33-36, NIV).

  This closing assembly of the eighth day is a stand-alone holy day. It is not part of the Feast of Tabernacles, but it is closely related. What does it mean?

          Whenever the eighth day is mentioned in scripture, it was after the completion of seven days of consecration, or seven days of preparation, or seven days of isolation. If a priest or a Levite was being prepared for service, or if a building or a tabernacle was being prepared for sacred use, it took seven days to get them ready, pray over them, offer sacrifices, burn incense, whatever it took, and then on the eighth day, the priest or Levite was ready to start serving the people, or the building or tabernacle was ready to be put into service.

          Following childbirth, the mother was ceremonially unclean for seven days, and then the boy babies were circumcised on the eighth day. If you wanted to sacrifice a newly born goat or lamb from your flock, you had to wait until it was eight days old. Then you could sacrifice it. As you can see, the eighth day was rather important to God.

          How does this relate to us? How does this correspond to the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Day? The week of the Feast represents a long period of time – say about a thousand years – when Messiah is ruling the earth. Our understanding is that we will be ruling with him during this time, as resurrected children of God.

          In Revelation chapter 19, Messiah is shown returning from heaven in triumph, in power and glory, to put down all human rulership and take His place as King of kings and Lord of lords on earth. In Revelation chapter 20, Satan is chained for 1,000 years. The saints come to life and rule with Christ for 1,000 years. Then Satan is released for a little while, and finally defeated permanently. Following this, we see the great white throne.

          “When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth – Gog and Magog – to gather them for battle.  In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God's people, the city he loves.  But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown.  They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it.  Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.  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” (Revelation 20:7-13, NIV). 

          What should happen next? Everyone sins; we know that. Romans 3:23 says “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But let’s not overlook the next verse, Romans 3:24, which says, “and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” That’s what’s different for the saints. The saints are justified freely by God’s grace because of the sacrifice of our Savior. What about the vast majority of mankind, those who never received Christ as their savior? What should happen at this point, when all men, women, and children are found guilty of living lives of sin? Should they all be thrown into the lake of fire? That would be justice. That would be the logical outcome of being found guilty of sin.

          But look what happens next. “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death” (Revelation 20:14, NIV). Do you see that? The people of earth are not thrown into the lake of fire. Death is thrown into the lake of fire. The grave is thrown into the lake of fire. These sinners were facing sure punishment at the hands of an angry God. But praise God, their sentences were commuted! They were forgiven! And the bottomless pit of death was taken away! The open jaws of the grave are done away! 

          How is this possible? Isn’t God a God of law? Didn’t He put those laws into effect to begin with? So why are these same laws, which accuse and convict a world full of sinners, not able to claim their lives?

          Grace.  God’s amazing grace.

          You’ve probably heard a lot of discussion about “law versus grace.” But in the great card game of life, grace trumps law every time. Isn’t that nice?  That’s why we have a hope.

          You’re familiar with Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” At the great white throne, the Judge has them all, dead to rights. They are guilty of sin and deserving of death. But what an act of grace: death itself is put to death, instead of the human race!

          Instead of universal death for all people, instead of an overflow crowd in a burning, fiery furnace, the grace of God provides for the substitution of Christ’s sacrifice for their sins. This is the message of the gospel. But it’s also in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, the writings of Moses. The whole concept of substitutionary sacrifice has been around since God killed an animal to cover Adam and Eve’s naked bodies because they were ashamed – because they had sinned! The reason God had Abraham almost sacrifice Isaac on a mountain was to picture how God was going to sacrifice His own Son later on, and some believe it might possibly have been on that very same mountain!

          The whole system of animal sacrifices in ancient Israel was to picture the sacrifice of our Savior, which would not simply cover our sins, as the animal sacrifices did, but remove them completely! And the sacrifice was not just for the Jews, not just for Israel, and not just for your favorite church denomination. The apostle John wrote, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2, NIV). You know John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.”

          If the Feast of Tabernacles pictures the Millennium, the eighth day represents the Great White Throne. If the children of God are going to be raised to life at Messiah’s coming at the beginning of the Millennium, and the children of God are going to join Messiah in ruling the nations for that 1,000 years, that suggests that the Millennium will be the period of time we will be trained, consecrated, and sanctified, the time during which we children of God will grow, and learn, and mature, and make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes, and continue to grow in wisdom and knowledge, ruling over the people who live during the Millennium. Then, after the Millennium, we will be graduated to the level of proficiency where we can be trusted with all the billions of people who will come up from their graves and hear the gospel message for the first time. We will be fully trained and mature, ready to help people see the benefits of living this way, instead of scaring them off, as we often do now.

          The period of the Exodus was when Israel left their slavery in Egypt and finally entered the promised land. We are now, in this Christian era, a kind of firstfruits, led out of our slavery in spiritual Egypt, hoping to enter the promised rest and gain our inheritance. But it doesn’t stop there. During the Great White Throne judgment, the rest of the dead, both small and great, will hear how they, too, can be delivered from their slavery to sin and also enter the same rest that we enjoy. We’re just the firstfruits. We’re not the whole harvest. We’re called ahead of the rest, not instead of the rest. 

          What’s the point of our wilderness wandering? You may know the old expression, “You can take the Israelites out of Egypt, but can you take the Egypt out of the Israelite?” That’s why we’re still wandering in the desert. That’s why we observe the holy days. It’s to give us every opportunity to get the Egypt out of our systems. Some day we’ll go into the land and take possession. Some day we will enter God’s rest and obtain the prize, our inheritance, eternal life as God’s children. At that time, we will become instruments in bringing the rest of mankind out of their Egypt and into their own personal wilderness, with the goal of having them enter their rest, God’s rest, along with us. 

          That’s the plan of God. That’s the picture these holy days paint for us. It’s not for us. It’s not for our salvation. It’s not to give us all the goodies. It’s so we can become useful tools in the hands of our Savior, the firstborn son of God, who is ruling the earth at that time, administering the kingdom and government of our Father.

          That’s what the eighth day is all about. Universal salvation to anyone who wants it. And we will be there, to take them by the hand and lead them into the kingdom and family of God, forever. 

 

Not “Jewish holidays”

          The appointed feasts of the Lord are not “Jewish holidays.” They did not spring from Judaism, but were given by God Himself. They are meaningful observances showing us specific features of God’s overall plan for mankind. By observing them year after year (or weekly, as in the case of the Sabbath), we are re-enacting the story, step by step, of how God began with one man, Adam, and worked His plan through another Man, “the last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45), to bring about the birth of a family.

          When children put on Christmas pageants year after year, we realize they aren’t for the parents’ entertainment as much as for the children’s education and edification. It drills into their minds the meaning and circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus. Imagine what it would be like if children in every community were to take part in the annual festivals of God, year in and year out, along with their parents. Think of the children marching in, singing songs and doings skits about how death passed over our homes, about our escape from slavery to sin, about how the goat carries the burden of our sins away, about how they are empowered by the Spirit and can do mighty deeds, about Jesus coming triumphantly in the clouds, and how the people of the earth will live happily for a thousand years.

          Think of it! Think how much of the story our children are missing – think how much we’re missing, too – by not knowing about the wonderful festivals of God and their significance for the Christian church!

          Yes, Jesus was born. But there’s so much more to it than that: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).

          God and His family will have the entire universe to rule; there will never be an end to the growth of God’s kingdom, or of His peace. How much room do you think we will need as we expand into the universe?  How many billions of galaxies are there in space? We don’t know, but God does. Besides, if we run out of galaxies, God can always create more if He needs more. And who knows, we may need more galaxies someday to hold the ever-growing family and government of God! After all, there are only billions and billions of galaxies – God can always make more!


 

Revised 10/11/07

 

 


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