Part II - The feasts of the Lord: Rehearsals for Messiah's coming

by Voice of Judah

THE SPRING FEASTS: REHEARSAL FOR MESSIAH'S FIRST COMING

THE FOUR SPRING FEASTS

The Spring Feasts season contains four appointed holidays to observe every year in the spring. Each one has an appointed day, or days, for its observation on the Jewish calendar; and each one has specific traditions and rituals. The Spring Feasts begin in the month of Aviv (commonly known as Nissan), which is the first month of the Jewish biblical calendar.

Below is a 3-month calendar of the Spring Feasts season so you can see how and when the feasts and the final events in Jesus’ ministry actually occurred. Following that, we will look at God’s commandments for the feasts and see how Jesus fulfilled their prophetic rehearsals during His ministry.
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KEY:

Biblical/Jewish days are reckoned from sunset to sunset (approximately 6pm to 6pm). So a biblical/Jewish “day” is shown in the calendar above as being spread across two standard calendar days.

For example, the 1st of Aviv is shown as beginning on sunset of Thursday (about 6pm), running through the day-time of Friday, and concluding Friday night as the biblical/Jewish date transitions to the 2nd at sunset.

LS = Last Supper
Jesus’ last meal with His disciples occurred in the evening of the 13th as the date transitioned to the 14th * ; twenty four hours before the Passover meal would occur. He was captured that night.

P = Passover
The lambs were sacrificed “between the evenings” during the day-time of the 14th (Exodus 12:6 in the Hebrew), and the Passover meal occurred that night as the date transitioned to the 15th.|
Jesus, God’s Passover Lamb, was hung on the cross during the day-time of the 14th as the Passover lambs were being sacrificed at the Temple Mount.

UB = Feast of Unleavened Bread (superscripted numbers indicate the day, i.e. 1 is the 1st day, etc.)
Nothing with yeast may be eaten this week; only unleavened bread. The 1st and 7th days of the feast were days for “no regular work” (Leviticus 23:6-8).

Sb = Weekly Sabbath (superscripted numbers count the number of sabbaths before Shavuot/Pentecost)
A special, weekly day of complete rest (Leviticus 23:3).

FF = Feast of First Fruits (Day 1 of the Counting of the Omer)
This feast occurs on the day following the weekly sabbath.* The first sheaves of the barley harvest are cut on the first evening and presented as a wave-offering of thanksgiving to the Lord. On the following day the grain from the sheaves is threshed, roasted then ground into flour and made into special first-fruits offerings which include a year-old lamb without defect (Leviticus 23:9-14)
Jesus was resurrected on this day as the first fruits offering of the resurrection to God.

Highlighted days in yellow on the calendar are the 40 days after Jesus’ resurrection which He spent with His disciples (Acts 1:3).

S/P = Shavuot, or Feast of Weeks (Pentecost)
Starting with the Feast of First Fruits, seven weekly sabbaths are counted (49 days). On the next day (Pentecost means “count fifty”), special offerings were made from the wheat harvest, along with special sacrifices for the day, and the day is a day of rest (Leviticus 23:15-21).
The Holy Spirit was poured out on the earth for those accepting the Messiah and the New Covenant on this day.

* Debate exists in Judaism and among biblical scholars about the actual timing of the feast days and the actual dates of the last events in Jesus’ ministry.


THE FEASTS AND THEIR FULFILLMENT:

THE PASSOVER

The Story of the Passover. The young nation of Israel had escaped famine in the Middle East by finding refuge in Egypt where Joseph, Jacob’s son who had been abandoned and sold years before by his brothers, had been appointed by Pharaoh as Second in Command of the empire. Israel prospered for years in Egypt under the care of Joseph and Pharaoh. However, as four centuries of generations passed, Israel came under cruel slavery in Egypt (Exodus 2:23-25).

Then God raised up His servant Moses who did miraculous signs in Egypt to compel the new Pharaoh to let Israel depart freely (Exodus 3-4), but Pharaoh always refused to let Israel leave. Moses released nine plagues on Egypt, each one more severe than the preceding one (Exodus 7:14 - 10:23). The tenth plague would secure Israel’s release from slavery.

Because of the unrelenting hardness of Pharaoh’s heart and Egypt's idolatry, the tenth plague would kill the firstborn of all the Egyptians. But God instituted His feast for Israel so the plague would “pass over” the Israelites and thus, God would deliver Israel from the bondage of Egyptian slavery (Exodus 11:1, 12:1-7, 12-13).

Selection of the Lambs on Aviv 10. Exodus 12:3

The Rehearsal: For centuries, on the 10th day of the first month of the year (Aviv or Nissan 10, Christians call this Palm Sunday) the High Priest would lead a symbolic Passover Lamb from the sheep pens east of Jerusalem through the city streets as multitudes of people waved palm branches and shouted in joyous celebration of the Passover. The High Priest would lead the little lamb to the Temple Mount where thousands of on-lookers cheered at the symbolic display of the Passover Lamb. The lamb was now ready for its four-day inspection to be sure it was without blemish so it would be an acceptable sacrifice on Passover.

Jesus’ Fulfillment: (The Triumphant Entry on Palm Sunday) On Aviv 10, about 2000 years ago, Jesus entered Jerusalem from Bethany (east of Jerusalem) riding a donkey.

Matthew 21:1-7  As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethany on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me.”... The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on.

The people who had gathered in the streets to watch and cheer in their expectation of seeing the High Priest with the symbolic Passover Lamb were shocked and cheered as they witnessed the revelation that had been waiting from eternity past to unfold: THE Passover Lamb, Himself, came riding thru Jerusalem.

John 12:12-13 ...the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!”

This year, instead of the earthly High Priest leading a little lamb to the Temple Mount to show everyone, Jesus, THE High Priest and Passover Lamb, ascended the Temple Mount and made a spectacle of Himself as He violently cleared the Mount of the money-changers and those selling animals.

Matthew 21:12-13 Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.’”

Inspection of the Lamb. Exodus 12:3-6

The Rehearsal: For centuries, from Aviv 10 - 14 the priests would inspect the Passover lambs for the people, and the lamb of the High Priest, to ensure they were without blemish so they would be an acceptable sacrifice for Passover.

Jesus’ Fulfillment: Following Jesus’ public spectacle of Himself on Aviv 10, for the next four days the religious leaders “inspected the lamb” as they questioned Jesus - trying to find fault with him according to the Law so they could justify sentencing him to death.

Luke 19:47  Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him.

Luke 20:19-21 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him... Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be honest. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. So the spies questioned him...

Matthew 21:23 ...while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”

Matthew 22:15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words.

Matthew 22:23, 34-35 That same day the Sadducees... came to him with a question... Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question...

Mark 12:13 Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words...

Slaughter of the Passover Lambs. Exodus 12:6

The Rehearsal: For centuries, on Aviv 14, sacrificing the Passover lambs on the Temple Mount began in the morning. This was a monumental effort as hundreds priests were on the Temple Mount helping wave after wave of people sacrifice thousands of lambs in the course of the day. The sacrifices would be completed just before the time of the daily evening sacrifice, which occurred at the 9th hour (3pm) in the afternoon.1

1 Edersheim, Alfred. The Temple - Its Ministry and Services. Peabody, Hendrickson Publishers, 1994. p.174

Jesus’ Fulfillment: On the morning of Aviv 14 Jesus was scourged, sentenced to crucifixion and then nailed to the cross. He hung on the cross as the lambs were being sacrificed on the Temple Mount.

Luke 22:66 At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them.

Mark 15:1 Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.

Matthew 27:26-30  But he (Governor Pilate) had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

Mark 15:25 It was the third hour (9am) when they crucified him.

Matthew 27:45-46 From the sixth hour (noon) until the ninth hour (3pm) darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Completion of the Passover Sacrifice.

The Rehearsal: For centuries, after the priests and the people had finished the sacrifice of the Passover lambs the High Priest would sacrifice the lamb that he had led through the city just four days previously. As the High Priest completed sacrificing the special Passover lamb, just before the ninth hour, he would declare, “It is finished.”

Jesus’ Fulfillment: Jesus had been hanging on the cross all day as the Passover lambs were sacrificed by the priests and the people. At the same time when the High Priest was slaughtering his special lamb in completion of the Passover sacrifices, just before the ninth hour, Jesus gave up His spirit and declared, “It is finished.”

John 19:28-30 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Atonement (Covering or Protection) from Judgement of Sin.

The Rehearsal: In the first (Egyptian) Passover, God provided “covering” for His people from judgment by the blood of the Passover lambs on the door posts.

Exodus 12:7, 12-13  “Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door frames of the houses where they eat the lambs. On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.”

Jesus’ Fulfillment: Jesus’ sacrifice and shedding of His blood on Passover as God’s Lamb provides atonement for humanity from God’s judgment on sin.

Leviticus 17:11 “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”

Ephesians 1:7 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace...”

THE FEAST OF THE UNLEAVENED BREAD

The events of the Passover set the stage for the events during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The two feasts are intimately connected. The first day of Unleavened Bread began at sunset; the same night when the tenth plague passed through Egypt and Israel finished the Passover meal (Exodus 12:29-30). God had instructed Moses that the first day of Unleavened Bread was a day when no work was to be done (Exodus 12:16). After the plague killed the firstborn of Egypt, yet left the Israelites unharmed, Pharaoh let Israel go in the early morning hours of the night (Exodus 12:31-33). On this day of rest for Israel, God set them free from their bondage (Exodus 12:17). What Israel could not have attained in their own strength God did for them by His mercy and grace. The date was Aviv 15. What a beautiful picture of God setting His people free by His mercy, not their effort!

Israel departed from Egypt, but was later pursued by Pharaoh and his army. The unleavened bread which the Israelites prepared for their Passover meal sustained them during their journey (Exodus 12:34). God had instructed Israel that the seventh day of the feast was also a day of no work (Exodus 12:16). It’s possible that on that very day Moses parted the Red Sea allowing Israel safe passage through while the enormous walls of water collapsed on the Egyptian army (Exodus 14). If so, this would be another incredible picture of God delivering His people from His work, not theirs.

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THE FEAST OF FIRST FRUITS

The Feast of First Fruits occurs during the Feast of Unleavened Bread on the day following the weekly sabbath during that week (Leviticus 23:9-11). Because this feast occurs during the week of Unleavened Bread, it is very much connected to the rehearsals of that feast as well as the Passover.

This feast was not to be celebrated until after Israel entered the Promised Land. As such, this feast is a descriptive picture of celebration upon receiving the fullness of God’s promises. The first celebration of First Fruits was when Israel crossed the Jordan River under the leadership of Joshua (Joshua 5:10-11).

During the Temple periods, including the time of Jesus, the feast was celebrated by cutting the first sheaves of barley from the Mount of Olives, waving them before the Lord in thanksgiving for the harvest, then grinding the sheaves into flour to be used in special offerings for the feast’s celebration (Leviticus 23:11-13). This feast marks day one of the Counting of the Omer (Omer is Hebrew for “sheaf”) which is counted for 49 days, up to the day of Shavuot, or Pentecost.

The theme of this feast is one of celebration and thanksgiving for the first harvest of the agricultural crops. Barley is the first crop harvested, and it is the grain which is harvested for this feast. Barley is a tender and valuable grain, great care is needed to raise it and harvest it. As the first harvest of spring, it is very symbolic of man (and God since the first fruits of barley are offered to Him) receiving the first fruits of new life after the “dead” of winter. Hence, this feast is the rehearsal for the resurrection of Messiah.
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THE FEAST OF SHAVUOT (PENTECOST)

The story of Shavuot picks up where we left off after Israel had escaped the Egyptian army through the Red Sea.

At the beginning of the third month of the year, just a little more than 6 weeks from their departure, Israel arrived at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:1). Moses approached the mountain and God called to him. God said He would descend upon the mountain in three days in sight of all the people (Exodus 19:10-11). Three days later God descended upon Mt. Sinai with a loud trumpet blast. Smoke and fire covered Mt. Sinai as the entire mountain shook violently with His presence (Exodus 19:16-19). This day was the first Shavuot. It was the day when God began giving His Torah to Israel (Exodus 19:20, 20:1-17) as fire from His presence descended upon the mountain.

In similar manner, on the Shavuot (Pentecost) following Jesus’ resurrection, flames of fire descended upon His disciples as they were filled with God’s Holy Spirit and spoke in foreign languages declaring the wonders of God (Acts 2:1-11).
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CONCLUSION: THE KEY FOR UNDERSTANDING THE END TIMES 

In concluding this review of the Spring Feasts and how Jesus fulfilled their rehearsals, I want to make three very important points. Don’t miss these! They’re essential to understanding the timing of events in the end times.

1. The feasts are rehearsals for the Messiah’s coming to earth, and they prophetically describe the events that occur on the earth in the Messiah’s ministry.

2. Jesus fulfilled the rehearsals in the Spring Feasts to the literal, physical, calendar day as they occurred in real life. In other words, He was on the earth fulfilling the feasts as the days occurred on the earth.

3. Just as Jesus fulfilled the Spring Feasts on the earth to the literal day and hour in which they occurred, He will fulfill the Fall Feasts on the earth to the literal day and hour in which they occur.

Pay special attention to my concluding point #3. What that means is this:

As we will see in the next few articles, the Feast of Yom Teruah (otherwise known as Rosh haShanah) is the rehearsal for the future resurrection and rapture of the Church. An event considered by many Christians to be imminent or could happen at-any-moment before end times tribulation events occur. Then, as the logic goes, the Church is in heaven for a 7 year wedding feast while tribulation events occur on the earth. After that, everyone returns with Jesus to the earth (expected to be on Yom Kippur) as He sets up His millennial reign for 1000 years.

There are two incredibly significant problems with that line of thinking:

One. Because mainstream Christian ideas about the end times have lost their Hebraic/Jewish context, most Christians misunderstand the end times. Most people don't realize the purpose of the end times or how the entire Fall Feasts program fits together. (The Church will be on the earth during the end times to be Israel’s ally and explain end times events to people as they occur).

Two. There are not 7 years between the time of Yom Teruah and Yom Kippur, there are only 8 days. So there cannot be a 7 year interval between the events of Tom Teruah (resurrection and rapture) and Yom Kippur (the time of atonement and judgement). There will be only 8 days. Messiah will fulfill the Fall Feasts to the literal calendar day just as He did in the Spring Feasts. This understanding shows us that the rapture is not “pre-tribulation,” it’s actually after the tribulation of the end times -  exactly according to the timing of the Fall Feasts.

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