The Jewish Feast
The feasts of the Lord were proclaimed to the Hebrew children through the prophet Moses while encamped before the mountain of God, Sinai. The book of Leviticus (vayikra - “and he called”), Chapter 23 describes the seven prominent feast the Jewish people must observe according to the command of the Lord. In accordance to the Jewish calendar they list as followed: Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Pentecost, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Feast of Tabernacles.
The purpose of the feast was communal as well as commemorative. The feast days were days which drew the nation together for celebration and worship. It is during this time that the works of the Lord are brought into remembrance and the history of the Hebrew people was recalled. Since the days of Adam to the establishment of Israel and then to the Church age the Lord has consistently showed through His decrees and blessings the importance of communal worship. For instance, there was just not one saved in the days of Noah, but eight. It was not just Lot saved from Sodom, but his family. Looking at the early church it was a body of believers that received the infilling of the Holy Ghost in the upper room. In our age where individuality and selfishness is preached the Lord continues to show His will in unity and selflessness among His people. This is a major reason why the Jewish people as a whole are continually blessed; they have kept to what the Lord has decreed to be “family orientated”, not self orientated.
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, was a Jewish convert to Christianity. He served under Rabbi Gamaliel in the elaborate studies of the Law which gave him revered credentials among the Jewish populace as a “learned man”, contrary to the impressions which the Jewish people had of Peter. Paul spoke boldly unto his Jewish brethren in the book of Hebrews (Author is unknown, but credit is given to Paul) in matters of the law. He revealed that the Jewish law was full of types and shadows of things to come; “For the law having a shadow of good things to come…” (Heb 10:1). The writer of Hebrews in Chapter 8 explains that the physical tabernacle, the law, and the sacrifices were to “serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things…” Through Jesus Christ we have obtained a more excellent ministry and received a better covenant, “which was established upon better promises.” The writer of Hebrews does not speak a new thing, but a prophecy by Jeremiah that the Lord will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah (Jer 31:31).
The feasts are a foreshadowing of the fulfillment of the law through Jesus Christ who established a New Covenant with Israel (Heb 8:8) that the law would be placed into the mind and hearts of man. To understand that revelation that Paul spoke of we must acknowledge the feast themselves and see the actual fulfillment of the feast in the life, death, resurrection, and second coming of Jesus Christ.
The Feast of Passover (Pesach) is actually comprised of three separate feasts during the period of Passover; the actual Passover Feast, the Unleavened Bread, and the First Fruits. The Passover Feast is a festival in remembrance of God’s deliverance from the bondage of Egypt (Ex 12). It speaks of the redemption by the blood of the Lamb which protected the children of Israel from the death angel which passed over the land of Egypt. The Feast of Unleavened Bread which occurs immediately after the Passover feast consist of a week when Israelite removed all yeast from their meals and home. Yeast or in other words, leaven is a type for sin. Bread, which is symbolic of the body, displayed the necessity of holy self sacrifice among believers to the Lord. We see this example in Paul’s writings to the Church of Corinth; “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened…” (1Cor 5:7; Gal 5:9). The Feast of First Fruits is a remembrance and gratitude to the dependence and provision of God (Lev 23:9-14). The first fruits of the harvest are offered to the Lord, it is an observance that remembers the provision of God at the beginning of the harvest season.
The Passover Feast, Unleavened Bread, and the Feast of First fruits have all been fulfilled by Jesus Christ. The crucifixion of Christ according to the Gospel of John occurred in the time of the Passover feast which is observed in the early spring. He (Jesus) has become our Passover for sin (1Cor.5:7-8). He is the unblemished lamb that was slain which none of His bones were broken which was a requirement of the Old Testament Passover lamb (Ex 12:46; John 19:33-37). Through His blood which was shed on Calvary death passes over all those who have applied the blood of Christ to the door post of our souls. It is by Christ we are sanctified and the leaven is removed from our life. He has cleaned out the old leaven (1Cor.5:7-8, Gal.5:9) that we would live sanctified and holy lives in righteousness. The resurrection of Jesus is symbolic of the first of the First fruits (1Cor.15:23). Paul further writes that those in Christ are the first fruits who have received the new birth experience by the word of truth (James 1:18). The first fruit signifies the resurrection power. Jesus rose on the “morrow after the Sabbath” and became the “First fruits” of the resurrection (1Cor 15:22-23). The dead in Christ shall arise and be resurrected as the harvest (1Thess 4:14-17).
The Pentecost Feast, or as known as the Feast of the Harvest (Shavout) is a celebration of gratitude to God for the harvest which Israel had received. The Jewish Pentecost is a type of the New Testament Pentecost which Christians hold very significant to Salvation; the outpouring of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2). Peter in his first message to his brethren quotes the prophecy of Joel on the day of Pentecost bridging the agricultural restoration which Israel received (Joel 1) to the spiritual restoration which the world is to receive through rain (Joel 2:23).
The Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) occurred on the seventh month of the new moon. It initiates the end of the agricultural and festival year by celebrating the New Year similarly to American culture which does the famous “Ball Dropping” in New York City. However, there are many discrepancies within the ancient Jewish calendar involving the agricultural calendar yea, and the actual festival calendar year. In our modern society Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. The trumpet blast through out the Bible was the sign of the passing of one era and the beginning of another. We see this example with the installation of a new king (1Kings 1:34), the trumpet blast of Revelations (Ch. 8-9), and the day of resurrection (1Thess 4:16). The Feast of Trumpets marks the gathering of God’s elect throughout the world (Matt 24:29-31) which is synonymous to the prophecies of Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Amos that Israel is to be gathered back to their own land. This is very relative to the New Testament believer, “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” (Rom 9:6). Those who are part of the New Testament church being redeemed by Jesus Christ are of Israel. The New Testament Church which came after Old Testament Israel is set before the Lord; it is the church which will be caught up in the sky and brought into the marriage of the lamb. The latter rain will be greater then the former rain; we see Biblical typology in the younger son’s of Israel who were chosen before their older brothers. Isaac over Ishmael; Jacob over Esau; Joseph over Reuban; and Ephraim over Manasseh - the Church over Israel. The predestined purpose of God was not the nation of Israel, but His holy nation, the Church, which is to be established in Israel, and in the end times re-gathered according to prophecies by a trumpet blast to Israel. This feast will be fulfilled through Jesus Christ, but has yet to come to pass.
The day of Atonement or as known as Yom Kippur is an annual festival exclusively set aside with the atoning for the sin of the people. Described briefly the priest would clothe himself with white undergarments and a white tunic; he did not wear the ceremonial insignia of a high priest. He would then sacrifice a bull for his own sin, including his household, and then cast lots over two goats. One goat would be used as a sacrifice, while the other would become a “scapegoat”. The priest would then in a prayer confess the sin’s of Israel and place them upon the goat which would be sent out into the wilderness (Lev 16:9) . The writer of Hebrews establishes a correlation between the Old Testament Day of Atonement, which the high priest could only enter the Most Holy Place once a year, to our Great High Priest, who offered Himself as a sin-offering for us once and for all (Heb 9:11-14) . The Day of Atonement was a shadow of things to come which is now obsolete; for the Gospels reveal to us the veil was torn between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place displaying the final and perfect atonement for sin had been made by the blood of Jesus on Calvary (Matt 37:51).
The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) takes place in mid-October where the people of Israel would live in booths to remember their journey from Egypt into Canaan when they lived in tents during their 40 years in the desert. The principal lesson behind this feast and the vast amounts of sacrifices made is that God is the provider of all blessings and gifts, the harvest belongs to Him. The feast has yet to be fulfilled, but will take place when Christ returns and the world will enter into Millennial Rest (Rev 20). During the time of the Temple the high priest would complete two facets of the Feast of Tabernacles: 1) draw water from the pool of Siloam which was placed in a basin and poured into another basin with wine at the foot of the altar. This was symbolic of the hope looking toward the replenishing of the earth for the harvest of next year; which is a type of the outpouring of the Holy Ghost. 2) The illumination of the Temple. At the closing of the Feast, Jesus came and with a loud voice stated, “If a man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said, streams of living water will flow form within him,” (John 7:37). Later Jesus would say, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life,” (John 8:12).
The temple was the predominate place were Jewish feast would take place, however, in 70 A.D the temple was destroyed by the Romans. This is worthy to note because no longer do such sacrifice take place which was the purpose of God through Jesus Christ being the perfect sacrifice fulfilling the law and the Jewish feast in Him. For the physical temple had been destroyed for one purpose, that the spiritual temple can be erected with the hearts of man where the presence of God will indwell.
It is through Jesus we have received a new and better covenant built upon better promises. The question as stated above “Should a Christian follow the Jewish feast?” The answer is no. If the Old Covenant was faultless there would be no need for a second covenant (Heb 8:7); why would we a New Testament believer, a follower of Jesus Christ who has received a better covenant return back to an older covenant which had been perfected in the New Covenant? (Heb 8:8-9). It is as returning to hand written reports while we have received computers. The Lord has established a new covenant for us to follow and not the old covenant; He took away the first to establish the second (Heb 10:9). I would even go further to say celebrating the Jewish feast is a rejection of what God had given us today and rejecting what Christ had done to fulfill the law. Everything points to Jesus, the Law, the feast, the offerings, and the Tabernacle, and all is fulfilled through Jesus.
The problem arose during the time of Paul among the Jewish Converts to Christianity who tried to keep and burden the Mosaic Law upon the converts and the Gentiles; men such as these were known as the Judaizers. We have a clear example of this in Galatians Chapter 2 when Paul rebukes Peter for attempting to burden Gentiles with Jewish traditions. The Jewish populace that converted to Christianity was in a state of confusion which the apostle Paul began to reconcile. There was great persecution against Jewish coverts and because of this there was a tendency among the converts to fall back on to what they had known, the tradition, rituals, and ceremonies rather then to follow by faith what they have now received in times of persecution and tribulation. The writer of Hebrews not only emphasis the New Covenant to the Jewish populace, but had to stimulate the peoples faith as well; “let us hold fast our profession”. Chapter 11 of Hebrews is known as the book of the faithful, men of God who exercised their faith to be an example to those under the New Covenant. We must remember a Jewish convert to Christianity not only lost his former faith, but they lost their sense of family and community. As stated above the Jewish faith is intertwined with the Jewish sense of nationalism. The repercussion for a Jewish man who became a Christian effected him socially, financially, and nationally. In our society today when we become Christian we do not loose who we are ethnically and nationally, we are still American, but as a Jew they would become ostracized.
Today we still have this attempt and practice to follow traditions of the ceremonial law in Messianic Jewish temples today. It is to keep the Jewish sense of nationalism, community, and pride while trying to serve Jesus. Trying to hold on to tradition produces a dangerous atmosphere when truth is revealed and known. We can take this example into the Christian churches today, for out of the sake of tradition preachers will baptize in the name of the “Father, Son, and Holy ghost”. They have understanding of the truth, but for the sake of tradition, and rather then be persecuted will compromise the truth of the Scriptures. The intent of Jewish Temples keeping aspect of tradition alive within the New Covenant Church for the sake of Jewish people who are seeking truth maybe in some aspect honorable. It would most definitely be easier for a Jewish person to seek out what he knows and receive truth from that place rather then seeking out something he doesn’t know. However, it is still wrong. The scriptures reveal to us the debates and arguments over such practices. From whatever former faith, or ways a person comes and converts to Christianity is a fearful thing; to know you will be ostracized, persecuted, and slandered, however it is all for the glory of God.