The Feast of Yom Kippur {The Day of Atonement} – Part 1

“And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness.”

[Leviticus 16:21]

The Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, is the holiest appointed feast of the year for the people of Israel. Once a year, the high priest of Israel was to consecrate himself before the LORD on behalf of the nation by entering the inner sanctuary of the temple and sprinkling blood over the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant. The sins of the entire nation were confessed before God, as the people sought mercy, forgiveness and restoration.

In studying the Day of Atonement, I have come to discover significant connections that are rich with meaning. Once I started pulling on this particular thread, it began to unravel deep prophetic mysteries that I had never seen before.

In short, this holy convocation — or annual rehearsal — provides the most comprehensive typological shadow picture of the Day of the LORD — that great Day of judgment for the whole world.

This initial post will attempt to lay the groundwork and Biblical backdrop of Yom Kippur.

Moses on the Mountain

Once the Feast of Trumpets was announced on Tishrei 1, the LORD instructed the children of Israel to enter into a 10-day period of self examination, fasting, fear, and trembling — called the days of Awe. These 10 days of repentance were to prepare the people of Israel for the Day of Atonement, which was appointed on the 10th of Tishrei.

Jewish tradition historically has associated the 10th of Tishrei as the very day Moses came down from Mount Sinai the second time after spending 40 days mediating between the LORD and the people. God’s anger burned against the children of Israel for their idolatry and rebellion with the golden calf, and Moses knew that something had to be done.

The next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”

[Exodus 32:30]

When Moses came back down the mountain from having met face to face with the LORD, his face was shining before the people.

“When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.” [Exodus 34:29]

From that point, Moses primarily would speak with the LORD in the tent of meeting — or tabernacle — and after communicating God’s word to the people with his face aglow, he would place a veil over his face.

The Tabernacle and Holy of Holies

As the children of Israel camped in the wilderness, the LORD instructed Moses to build an intricate tent for His own unique dwelling place in the midst of the people. The tabernacle was called the tent of meeting because it was the one place that the the LORD of glory would visit to meet with Moses.

The tabernacle was divided into three parts, and the inner sanctuary was concealed with a curtain and was the most holy place — the Holy of Holies. The inner sanctuary contained the ark of the covenant [which contained the 10 commandments] and the mercy seat, where the blood from the atoning sacrifice was to be sprinkled on behalf of the people.

Once a year, the high priest would consecrate himself and enter the Holy of Holies wearing only white garments to make atonement for the entire nation. If the high priest failed to approach the LORD in total observance to the law, he would be killed on the spot.

The Scapegoat and the Crimson Cord

The 16th chapter of Leviticus provides the detailed instructions for the Day of Atonement. The high priest was to sacrifice a bull for his own sin before entering the inner sanctuary, and then he was to bring a censor of burnings coals from the altar and incense to cover the mercy seat while applying the blood.

Then the high priest was to take one of two goats and cast lots for them. One goat was to be sacrificed on behalf of the entire nation and the other goat was to be the scapegoat — or  Azazel in Hebrew. The first goat was to be the atoning sacrifice, which temporarily satisfied God’s righteous anger toward the sins of the people. This conveyed the act of propitiation, where a substitute is sacrificed on behalf of another to punish sin and appease the wrath of God.

After making atonement for himself and the people, the high priest then was commanded to place both hands on the scapegoat and confess all the sins of the people over the goat, which effectively transferred the guilt onto the scapegoat and removed the guilt from the people. This conveyed the act of expiation, where guilt is transferred onto another and removed far away from the guilty. The scapegoat was then driven out into the wilderness, where eventually it would be forced off a cliff.

Jewish writings later reveal that the priests would tie a crimson thread both to the scapegoat and the door of the temple in order to determine if the LORD had accepted the sacrifices. If both crimson threads turned white, then the people took that as a sign that the sacrifices had been acceptable in God’s sight.

Interestingly enough, according to the Jerusalem Talmud, during the 40 years between the death of Yeshua and the destruction of the Temple (A.D. 70) the crimson cord never turned white.

“Forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the western light went out, the crimson thread remained crimson, and the lot for the Lord always came up in the left hand. They would close the gates of the Temple by night and get up in the morning and find them wide open.” 

[Jacob Neusner, The Yerushalmi, p.156-157]

Jesus Partial Fulfillment of Yom Kippur

“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption … Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”

[Hebrews 9:11-12, 25-26]

The book of Hebrews elaborates on the role of the high priest and the Day of Atonement, specifically how the Lord Jesus has entered into the very presence of God in heaven by His own blood on our behalf. When Jesus died once and for all as the atoning sacrifice for sin, the veil in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom, exposing the inner sanctuary. God was communicating a message that sinners now have direct access to the Father through the Son — our Great High Priest.

The Day of Atonement does find its partial fulfillment in the first coming of Christ, as He has made propitiation for our sins and the sins of the whole world. The annual rehearsal on Yom Kippur was merely a shadow picture of the good things to come.

“For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near … Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

[Hebrews 10:1, 19-22]

The Day of Atonement, however, will not ultimately be fulfilled until Christ comes a second time to bring judgment on His enemies, transfer the guilt of sin upon Azazel (the devil), forgive and save the nation of Israel, and completely pour out his wrath upon the wicked.

“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him … But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.”

[Hebrews 9:27-28, 10:12-13]

Stay tuned for my next post — part 2 of the Day of Atonement.

The Feast of Trumpets Future Fulfillment

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

[Revelation 11:15]

In the same way that the Lord Yeshua precisely fulfilled the spring Feasts of the LORD in His first coming, He will fulfill the remaining fall feasts at His second coming. The Lamb of God will return as the King of Glory to crush God’s enemies and establish His Kingdom on earth.

In my trumpets part one post, I discussed how the Israelites were to blow the trumpets on the first day of the seventh month, primarily as an annual reminder of when Yahweh appeared before Moses and the people at Sinai. As we will see, Sinai is the predominant typological event from the Old Testament that corresponds to the return of Christ to the earth. The LORD also prescribed other general occasions for the trumpets to be sounded in Israel — all of which have prophetic significance.

All in all, many of the prophetic passages of Scripture that describe the second coming of Christ and the Day of the LORD intentionally use identical language involving trumpet blasts, angelic battle cries, and loud shouts from heaven. As we will see, this is not by accident.

Old Testament Depictions of the Day of the LORD

Before I get to the obvious New Testament passages that correspond to the future fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets, I would like to examine a few prophetic passages from the Old Testament. These prophecies are concerning the great Day of the LORD, which always has been connected to the coming of Messiah the King at the end of the age to destroy the enemies of Israel.

“The great day of the LORD is near,
near and hastening fast;
the sound of the day of the LORD is bitter;
the mighty man cries aloud there.
A day of wrath is that day,
a day of distress and anguish,
a day of ruin and devastation,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness,
a day of trumpet blast and battle cry
against the fortified cities
and against the lofty battlements.

[Zephaniah 1:14-16]

Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming; it is near.”

[Joel 2:1]

“Then the LORD will appear over them, and his arrow will go forth like lightning; the Lord GOD will sound the trumpet and will march forth in the whirlwinds of the south.

[Zechariah 9:14]

The Prophetic Teachings of Yeshua

Beginning with the prophetic words of Yeshua Himself and working through the Apostles, it becomes very evident that the LORD established the Feast of Trumpets so that His people would rehearse each year the dramatic events of God’s future arrival to Zion. We must not forget that these appointed feasts are “holy convocations,” or practice runs in anticipation for the real thing.

As Jesus taught His disciples the details surrounding His second coming on the Mount of Olives, He used language that would have been very familiar to devout Jews who were anticipating the coming Kingdom of God.

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

[Matthew 24:29-31]

The “loud trumpet call” that Jesus referred to would have provoked several images in the minds of the disciples. First, the disciples would have remembered the LORD coming down in power and glory at Sinai. Just as Yahweh descended upon the earth at Sinai in flaming fire and thick clouds with trumpets blasting [Exodus 19], so Yeshua will return to the earth in like manner. Only this time, every eye will see Him coming and all the tribes of the earth will mourn at the sight of the Son of Man [see Revelation 1:7].

The Feast of Trumpets undoubtedly would have been in the minds of the disciples, as they had rehearsed this climatic event every year with the sounding of trumpets and with great shouts of joy in anticipation of the King of Glory. Jesus reinforces the imagery of the Feast of Trumpets by using language that uniquely corresponds to this holy day.

We must remember that the Feast of Trumpets was sometimes called the “Hidden Day” in Israel because it could only be determined by the sighting of the new moon on the first day of the seventh month. As the appointed time drew near, the people of Israel would wait and watch throughout all hours of the night to ensure that they did not miss the appearance, or “sign,” of the new moon.

Because of the uncertainty of when the first sign of the moon would appear, no one in Israel could know or predict the exact “day or the hour” when the Feast of Trumpets would arrive. Only the LORD in heaven had perfect knowledge of the precise day and hour.

Only in light of the Feast of Trumpets do the words of Jesus make sense. Unfortunately, many have misinterpreted His words to imply that the second coming could happen without notice at any moment, but that is NOT what Jesus was communicating at all. As a matter of fact if we read His words carefully, He is teaching the exact opposite.

From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates

But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only …

Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

[Matthew 24:32-33, 36, 42-44]

Notice that Jesus, using the exact “Feast of Trumpets” language, is teaching His followers to be watchful, ready, and prepared for His return. He clearly says that those paying attention will be able to recognize the signs leading up to His return and therefore will know when His second coming is near, “even at the very gates.”

Like the anticipation of the new moon appearing on the horizon, we are to wait and watch for the appearance of His coming. We may not know the exact hour or even the day, but WE WILL KNOW WHEN HIS RETURN IS CLOSE AT HAND! If we are willing to stay awake and pay careful attention to the signs, we will not be caught sleeping like the rest of the world in darkness, but we will be prepared to meet Jesus in hopeful expectation.

The Prophetic Teachings of Paul

The Apostle Paul builds on the teachings of Jesus and uses the same language to describe the “glorious appearing of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ” [Titus 2:13]. As you will see, the trumpets again play a prominent role in Paul’s prophecies.

“For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power … I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall 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 imperishable, and we shall be changed.”

[1 Corinthians 15:21-24, 50-52]

Immediately one can see that Paul is connecting the coming of the Lord with the “last trumpet“, which was the longest and loudest trumpet blast during the culmination of the Feast of Trumpets. Paul also corresponds the sounding of the last trumpet with three simultaneous events.

  1. The Return of Jesus at the end of the age
  2. The Resurrection of the righteous
  3. The Rapture of the church

Paul provides even more detail in his letter to the Thessalonians.

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And 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, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

[1 Thessalonians 4:13-18]

Again, Paul’s language draws on two primary sources — Moses and Jesus. This description is almost identical both to the appearance of Yahweh on Mount Sinai and to the words of Jesus on the Mount of Olives. Paul is prophetically illustration the events surrounding the second coming of the Lord.

Like at Sinai, the Lord will descend from heaven in a cloud and flaming fire [see 2 Thessalonians 1:8] with the battle cries and shouts from heaven and the blast of the trumpet of God! He is coming back to the earth in the same way He left [Acts 1:11].

Paul also draws from the language of Jesus, who described the great gathering together of His elect from all over the earth at His return [Matthew 24:31]. Just like the trumpet blasts were to summon the children of Israel to gather together before the LORD, we too will be caught up together at the last trump to meet King Jesus as He is descending to the earth in power and great glory. Here again we see the trumpet of God connected to the simultaneous Return of Christ, Resurrection of the dead and Rapture of the church.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ

So much more could be said about the future fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets and the Return of Jesus Christ. But for the sake of time, I would like to at least mention the testimony of Jesus to the Apostle John concerning the final apocalypse — or revelation — of the Lord.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ remains one of the most mysterious and misinterpreted books in all of holy Scripture. I do believe that the key to understanding Revelation is to read the 7 seals, trumpets and bowls — not in strict chronological order — but rather as partially overlapping and culminating together at the coming of Jesus and the battle of Armageddon.

For example, the 6-7th seals, 7th trumpet and 7th bowl all are describing the same event — the return of King Jesus. All three culminate with similar Sinai language as well, further validating that they are referring to the same event.

  • 7th Seal — “there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake” [Revelation 8:5]
  • 7th Trumpet (Last Trump) — “there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail” [Revelation 11:19]
  • 7th Bowl — “The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake” [Revelation 16:17-18]

It only makes sense to harmonize the overlapping descriptions and understand them as the same event. There is only one second coming of Jesus Christ to earth — not multiple, but there are at least five different descriptions of the return of Jesus in the book of Revelation [Revelation 6:12-17, Rev 11:15-19, Rev 14:14-20, Rev 16:15-21, Rev 19:11-21].

Obviously Jesus doesn’t return five separate times! These are all depicting the same event from different perspectives. For the sake of our study today, let’s finish by looking at the 7th Trumpet, or Last Trump, in Revelation 11.

At the blowing of the 7th Trumpet, the kingdoms of the earth become the kingdom of Christ, as He begins to reign. The Lord pours out his final judgement in wrath upon His enemies and rewards the saints who are to inherit the kingdom.

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying,

“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.” Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.

[Revelation 11:15-19]

The Feast of Trumpets — Part 1

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation.”

[Leviticus 23:23-24]

Having rediscovered the prophetic purposes of the spring Feasts of the LORD and the precision with which Christ has fulfilled them in His first coming, I now will turn my attention to the three remaining fall feasts. Although some authors have proposed a correlation between the fall feasts and the first coming of Christ [i.e. Yeshua most likely was born on or around the Feast of Tabernacles], my focus here will remain on the future fulfillment of the fall feasts in connection to His second coming.

The first of the fall feasts traditionally is known as Yom Teruah — the Day of Shouting. The Hebrew word, teruah, is associated with sounding an alarm, shouting the battle cry, making an announcement, and blowing the trumpets. The LORD declared the Feast of Trumpets to begin at the first sighting of the new moon on the seventh month, which means that the appointed time of this feast is unique from all other Feasts of the LORD.

Whereas all other feasts are designated on specific days of the Hebrew calendar, no one precisely knows “the day or the hour” of the Feast of Trumpets because it is determined each year by the appearance of the new moon. As the sixth month draws to a close, the people must wait and watch vigilantly in anticipation for the first sign of the moon’s sliver. Because of the uncertainty of knowing the “day or hour,” Yom Teruah traditionally became a two-day feast to ensure that the people did not miss it.

Once the new moon was sighted, the heralds were to report to the high priest, who validated the sighting on the testimony of two witnesses. Once validated, the high priest commanded the blowing of the shofar from the Temple Mount, which initiated a series of trumpet blasts and celebrations of shouting and praising God throughout the land of Israel. The longest and strongest trumpet blast finally would bring it all to a close, which was the “last trump.”

The LORD commanded His people to observe a special Sabbath, a solemn rest, on this holy day, specifically as a reminder of the greatest day in Israel’s history. The Feast of Trumpets was established as an annual memorial commemorating the day when the LORD descended from heaven in flaming fire onto the top of Mount Sinai to reveal Himself in glory to Moses and His people.

A Memorial for Sinai

The Feast of Trumpets corresponds to the greatest theophany, or divine appearance, that mankind had ever seen. It was at the base of Mount Sinai in the desert of Northwest Arabia that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was made manifest in power and great glory before the children of Israel. His presence at Sinai was so awesome to behold that the people begged of Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die” [Exodus 20:19].

The blowing of trumpets were to serve as a reminder of that most unique and unforgettable day. Let’s take another look at the Biblical account of God’s appearance at Sinai.

 “On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.”

[Exodus 19:16-20]

Notice that these trumpets blasts were of divine origin, sounding from heaven, to announce the coming of the LORD to the earth to meet with His people. The trumpet blasts grew more intense the closer God’s appearance became, causing the people to fear and tremble at His sight.

While the theophany at Sinai remains to be the primary event in connection to the Feast of Trumpets, other purposes later were prescribed for trumpets, all of which are interesting in their own right. As you will see, the blowing of trumpets retains significant purpose in Israel’s past and also prophetic fulfillment in the days to come.

The Silver Trumpets and the Shofar

In Numbers chapter 10 the LORD commanded Moses to fashion two silver trumpets for multiple purposes.

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Make two silver trumpets. Of hammered work you shall make them, and you shall use them for summoning the congregation and for breaking camp … And the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow the trumpets. The trumpets shall be to you for a perpetual statute throughout your generations. 

And when you go to war in your land against the adversary who oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, that you may be remembered before the LORD your God, and you shall be saved from your enemies. On the day of your gladness also, and at your appointed feasts and at the beginnings of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings. They shall be a reminder of you before your God: I am the LORD your God.”

[Numbers 10:1-2, 8-10]

Numbers 10 provides the context for how trumpets were to be used among the children of Israel. Trumpets were to be sounded …

  1. To summon and gather God’s people together and also for breaking camp.
  2. For important public announcements (literally evangelism).
  3. To sound the alarm, or battle cry, for war.
  4. To summon God’s presence and power for battle to overcome the enemy.
  5. To initiate the joyous celebrations associated with the appointed feasts and new moon festivals.

Beyond the silver trumpets, the LORD also commanded Israel to use the shofar — or ram’s horn — in similar ways. Perhaps the most famous use of the shofar was during Joshua’s battle at Jericho.

“Have seven priests carry seven rams’ horns in front of the ark. Then on the seventh day, march around the city seven times, while the priests blow the horns. And when there is a long blast of the ram’s horn and you hear its sound, have all the people give a mighty shout. Then the wall of the city will collapse, and the people will go up, each man straight ahead.”

[Joshua 6:4-5]

Other Days Associated with Trumpets

Beyond Sinai, the silver trumpets and shofars, other days traditionally are recognized by the Jews to correspond with the Feast of Trumpets. It is noteworthy to list them here.

  • The Head of the Year — Rosh Hashanah — The Feast of Trumpets announces the beginning of a new year on the Jewish civil calendar.
  • The Day of the Resurrection — The Feast of Trumpets is associated with the day of the awakening blast, as Isaiah says, “Your dead will live; Their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy …” [Isaiah 26:19].
  • The Day of Judgment — Yom Hadin — Jewish tradition says that the Feast of Trumpets also will be the day the books are opened judgment is rendered prior to the age of the Messianic Kingdom.
  • Day of Coronation of the King — Yom Hamelech – The trumpets were to be sounded at the coronation ceremony of a new king, as we read, “There Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the tent and anointed Solomon. Then they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, ‘Long live King Solomon!‘” [1 Kings 1:39]

As we will see next time, when one understands the purpose of the Feast of Trumpets in Israel’s past, he will be more likely to understand the greater fulfillment of this fascinating feast in the future, when the Lord Jesus returns in all His glory. The Feast of Trumpets will initiate the Day of the LORD — that great and dreadful Day — when the King returns home to claim what is rightfully His!

“Blow a trumpet in Zion;

sound an alarm on my holy mountain!

Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,

for the day of the LORD is coming; it is near!”

[Joel 2:1-2]

The Summer Season and the Fullness of the Gentiles

“And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.”

[Leviticus 23:22]

Autumn has always been my favorite season. Summers in the south can be brutal and unrelenting. It’s not unusual for us to have oppressive heat well into October, so when the cooler temperatures finally began to arrive recently, I gladly grabbed a jacket and embraced the fresh fall air with enthusiasm.

My point is that the long, hot days of summer can wear you down and make you lazy, but the reality is that the summer provides the best opportunity to work, be active and productive. Long days mean more daylight hours to get the job done. A summer wasted is a terrible thing. Seems like I remember the Lord Yeshua having something to say about that.

“We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

[John 9:4-5]

As I have been studying the seven appointed Feasts of the LORD, I have rediscovered the rich theological and prophetic implications of God’s reckoning of time. God never wastes a season, especially the summer season, and that is precisely where we are on His prophetic timeline.

The LORD’s appointed “moedim” are divided up into four spring and three fall feasts. We already have seen how the Lord Yeshua has fulfilled the spring feasts in His first advent, as the Lamb of God and firstfruits of the resurrection. We will soon see how Christ fulfills the autumn feasts at His second coming.

But what is God doing in between the spring and fall — between the first and second coming of Christ?

How should we understand this long, hard “summer season” that has lasted nearly 2,000 years since the Lord’s first coming? How much longer will the Lord tarry during this summer season and for what primary purpose?

I believe the answer is found in one of the great mysteries of God’s redemptive plan — the fullness of the Gentiles.

The Good News of Gleaning the Fields

Leviticus 23:22 is the pivotal verse in this important chapter. The instructions in this verse can be easily overlooked, but make no mistake, these instructions are tucked neatly between the description of the spring and fall feasts on purpose.

The LORD commanded the Israelites to intentionally leave the edges of their fields untouched each harvest to provide gleanings for the poor and the sojourner (i.e. Gentiles). These gleanings would provide essential sustenance for those who had not inherited land or who were outside the commonwealth of Israel.

Beyond the practical purpose of showing God’s love and concern for the poor and the stranger, the gleanings of the harvest symbolized a much greater spiritual principle — the LORD’s redemptive plan has always included provision for the Gentiles. Israel was strategically placed in the midst of the pagan nations in order to be a light to the Gentiles and a blessing to all the families of the earth (Acts 13:47).

There is perhaps no greater Old Testament picture of this promise than in the story of Ruth and Boaz, the kinsman-redeemer. As Ruth, a poor Moabite widow, was allowed to pick the gleanings from the fields of Boaz, the God or Israel was showing her grace and preparing her to become the Gentile bride of her Jewish kinsman-redeemer. What a typological picture of a predominately Gentile church becoming the bride of Israel’s Redeemer! Wow!

My point is that the summer gleanings in the fields of Israel represent the spiritual summer season in God’s mysterious work of redemption, as He has extended the good news of His grace to the Gentiles for the last 2,000 years!

The spring feasts are fulfilled. The fall feasts will be fulfilled at the appointed time, but at this moment and in this season, God is making provision for the nations to receive salvation through Jesus Christ and become heirs along with Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in!

“This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

[Ephesians 3:6]

Salvation is to the Jew First

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

[Romans 1:16]

To say that the nation and people of Israel have a unique place in relationship to Almighty God may be the understatement of all time. As the LORD chose Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and called them into covenant relationship with Himself, He was beginning the process of creating a new nation – a people for His own possession and purpose.

So it goes without saying that the people and nation of Israel — known today as the Jews — have a special place in God’s sight, as the apple of God’s eye. Perhaps the Apostle Paul says it best when he writes, “Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God” [Romans 3:1-2].

Every single book written in our Bible (with the exception perhaps of Luke and Acts) was inspired through the Holy Spirit and penned by a Jewish author. The word of God has been written and preserved by the Jewish people. It both was to and through the Jews that salvation has come to the world through Yeshua the Messiah.

“They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.”

[Romans 9:4-5]

This is why we should have expected the early New Testament church to consist exclusively of Jewish believers! The Feast of Pentecost was the fulfillment of the firstfruits of the spiritual harvest of God’s people.

But God’s plan of salvation did not stop there. Many of the Jewish believers in Yeshua were too short sighted when considering the overall redemptive work of God. Many of the Jews had forgotten God’s promise to bless all nations of the earth through their Messiah.

After Pentecost was fulfilled through the sending of the Holy Spirit and the salvation of 3,000 Jews from the diaspora, the last days had arrived. Summer had started. But few could comprehend just how long this summer season of God’s patience and grace would last.

A Partial Hardening upon Israel

“Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”

[Romans 11:25]

Although salvation most certainly came to the Jews first, as a believing Jewish remnant embraced Yeshua as Messiah, the overwhelming majority of the Jewish nation and its leaders rejected their own Messiah and persecuted the early church. Unfortunately, many Gentiles in the church later perverted this reality to develop anti-Semitic, replacement theology that led to atrocious persecution of the Jewish people by “Christians” in the name of Jesus Christ.

This terrible anti-Semitic blight in church history must be acknowledged and condemned, especially considering that the same anti-Semitic spirit is alive and well within Christendom today. Despite the fact that the God’s redemptive work has predominately targeted the Gentile nations for the past 2,000 years, we cannot forget that His promises to redeem and restore the people and nation of Israel still stand today!

The Apostles were clear that the leaders of national Israel were responsible for willingly rejecting Yeshua the Messiah and in that regard were guilty before God for their rebellion. Consider these verses accusing the Jews of rejecting Christ.

“He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” 

[John 1:11]

“This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”

[Acts 2:23]

“The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him

[Acts 3:13]

“The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree.”

[Acts 5:30]

Beyond the initial rejection of Jesus by His own people, the Apostles were relentlessly attacked, persecuted and opposed by the Jewish leaders of their day. The Apostle Paul especially suffered many attacks by the Jews and although forever burdened for his kinsmen in the flesh, he was called to be an Apostle to the Gentiles.

But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy, and they blasphemously contradicted what Paul was saying. Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “It was necessary to speak the word of God to you first. But since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.”

[Acts 13:45-46]

As Paul writes to the believers in Rome, however, he clarifies that this hardening and jealousy of the Jewish people toward Gentile believers is only temporary in nature. In other words, even though the majority of Jewish people historically have rejected their own Messiah, the LORD has not completely rejected His people the Jews. He has always preserved a believing remnant of the Jewish people to this day.

“I ask then, did God reject His people? Certainly not! … In the same way, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.

[Romans 11:1,5]

The Fullness of the Gentiles and the Future Salvation of Israel

So why such a long “summer” between the first and second coming of the Lord Jesus? In short the answer is simple — Grace. As Peter reminds us, the only reason the Lord tarries is because He is demonstrating patience and mercy to the world in order to allow for as many as possible to be saved before the day of judgment arrives.

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief …”

[2 Peter 3:8-10]

This age of grace, this summer season of God’s mercy, is allowing the fullness of the Gentiles to come into the Kingdom. The LORD promised Abraham that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him and his offspring (Jesus), which is precisely why Jesus commanded His disciples to go to ends of the earth and make disciples of all nations.

But there is coming a day, much sooner than later, when the fullness of the Gentiles will come to a close, the summer days of grace will end, the great tribulation will begin, God will return special attention to the Jews, and the Day of the LORD will come.

I would like to leave you with some Scriptures that demonstrate how all of this will transpire at the end of the age.

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

[Luke 21:20-24]

Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months.” 

[Revelation 11:1-2]

Alas! That day is so great there is none like it; it is a time of distress for Jacob; yet he shall be saved out of it.

[Jeremiah 30:7]

““Behold, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of staggering to all the surrounding peoples. The siege of Jerusalem will also be against Judah. On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples. All who lift it will surely hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth will gather against it … And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.

[Zechariah 12:2-3, 9-10]

And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

The Deliverer will come from Zion,
he will banish ungodliness from Jacob;
and this will be my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”

[Romans 11:26-27]

Summer is almost over. The fulfillment of the fall feasts of the LORD are ever so near. Stay tuned as I will examine the fall feasts next time.

The Feast of Weeks {Pentecost} Fulfilled

“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place … And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

[Acts 2:1,4]

After the Lord Jesus — our Passover Lamb — was crucified, buried and triumphantly resurrected as the Firstfruits from the dead, the Bible says that He “presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” [Acts 1:3].

Just before His ascension, Yeshua commanded His disciples to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit who would come “not many days from now” [Acts 1:4]. As the disciples gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost, there must have been a spirit of enthusiasm and anticipation for what would happen next. The purpose of Pentecost was about to be fulfilled.

God’s Presence and Power on Display

As I mentioned in my last post, there are obvious parallels between the giving of the law at Sinai and the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that we cannot overlook.

The LORD commanded Moses to gather all of Israel in one place and to have them consecrate themselves before entering His presence at Sinai. At the appointed time, the people of Israel witnessed perhaps the greatest manifestation of God the world has ever seen.

The theophany at Sinai was as terrifying as it was awesome to behold. The people heard thunderings and trumpet blasts, saw lightening flashes and a thick cloud cover the mountain, and finally the LORD Himself descended in fire (Exodus 19:16-18). The sheer presence of God caused all of Israel to tremble.

And there the LORD commenced to thunder with His mighty voice and speak the holy commandments of God to His people.

Fast forward to the fulfillment of Pentecost. We find God’s people all gathered in one place, waiting in expectation for the promised coming of the Holy Spirit. At that moment, a mighty rushing wind from heaven descended upon them, like a tornado raging through the city. As the whirlwind moved through Jerusalem, multitudes heard the sound and wondered in amazement (Acts 2:5-6).

Divided tongues of fire came down and rested upon each individual disciple, giving them utterance to proclaim the word of God in other languages. Just as the LORD descended in fire and proclaimed His word to all Israel at Sinai, the Holy Spirt had come baptizing with fire and proclaiming the gospel to all Israel at Pentecost.

Birth of a Nation — Birth of the Church

“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

[Exodus 19:5-6]

The LORD redeemed the children of Israel from bondage out of Egypt, brought them through the baptismal waters of the sea, and established a covenant with them at Sinai. It was the confirmation of this covenant that effectively sealed the relationship between the LORD and His people. It was much like a marriage ceremony, as God claimed Israel as His “treasured possession” and a “holy nation.”

The day of Pentecost likewise was the birth of the “ekklesia,” the blood-bought church of the living God. The Lord Jesus had accomplished the necessary work of redemption on the cross and proven His power over death and the grave in His resurrection. At Pentecost God would seal the New Covenant with the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which enabled the Lord to indwell each and every believer in a new and living way!

God’s promise to bless all the nations of the earth would begin to be fulfilled on this day, as there were ” devout men from every nation under heaven” in Jerusalem at Pentecost [Acts 2:5], who heard the good news about Jesus for the very first time. God’s redemptive work would move beyond the unique nation of Israel to the ends of the earth.

The church — the people of God — now included the Gentiles. Just as Pentecost was also called the Feast of the Harvest of the Firstfruits, the birth of the church was the initial, spiritual harvest for all who would believe in Christ.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

[1 Peter 2:9-10]

The Law Written on our Hearts

The relationship between the law of Moses (Sinai) and having faith in Christ has often been misunderstood and misrepresented.

God’s law is good. It is pure and perfect. It is God’s fixed standard of righteousness by which we must measure ourselves and all things.

The reality, however, is that no flesh can be justified by keeping the works of the law because we all have sinned and fall short of God’s glorious standard. We can strive to live by the law, which is good, but ultimately the law will condemn us because we can never measure up to the moral perfection required by God.

So what is the purpose of the law?

The law exposes our sinfulness and ultimately shows us our need for a Savior, which is why the gospel is such good news!

Yeshua perfectly fulfilled the law, and having never sinned, He is the only person who ever met God’s righteous standard in perfect obedience to the Father. Because of the righteousness of Jesus, who did keep the law of Moses, we are offered the free gift of salvation through faith in Christ.

When we believe in the finished work of Christ, the Bible says that God makes Him (Jesus), who knew no sin, to become sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. In this gracious exchange, God credits the righteousness of His Son to all who believe, having imputed the punishment for our sin upon Christ at the cross.

So what does all of this have to do with Pentecost? Everything!

The giving of the Holy Spirit changed the way God’s people related both to Him and His perfect law. No longer are we like the Israelites, trying to obtain righteousness by keeping the law of Moses, but now we are set free from sin and death by the law of the Spirit of life! We are justified not by works but by the law of faith (Romans 3:27).

The New Covenant is the promise that God would take the very laws written on tablets of stone at Sinai and write them on the very hearts of His people. And in addition to the spiritual transformation of our hearts, which changes our very desires, the Lord also promised to give us His Spirit as our Helper to enable us to obey the law. We are set free to walk in step with the Spirit in obedience to God!

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

[Jeremiah 31:31-33]

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

[Ezekiel 36:26-27]

God of Holiness, God of Grace

Finally, it is worth noting that we see the full representation of God’s divine nature both at Sinai and Pentecost.

At the very moment the LORD was writing His law on tablets of stone, the Israelites had already transgressed the first two commandments. Convinced that Moses had abandoned them, the children of Israel tempted Aaron to mold a golden calf to be their “god,” and they bowed down to worship this idol in the very face of God.

As a result of this gross transgression, the LORD demonstrated His holiness and judgment upon Israel, and 3,000 people died that very day [Exodus 32:28].

On the day of Pentecost, after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Peter stood up and preached the good news of Jesus to the crowds. And what happened next was not a coincidence. God demonstrated His goodness and grace in direct contrast to Sinai. The Lord saved 3,000 souls that very day!

And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

[Acts 2:40-41]

Pentecost will forever be memorialized with the coming of the Holy Spirit, the birth of the church, and the confirmation of the New Covenant established by the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Feast of Weeks is the last of the spring feasts of the LORD, which all have been fulfilled in the first coming of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Next time I will begin examining the fascinating connections between the fall feasts of the LORD and the second coming of the Lord Jesus!

The Feast of Weeks {Pentecost} — Part 1

“You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the LORD.”

[Leviticus 23:15-16]

Numbers are both symbolic and significant in the Biblical narrative. The LORD often uses numbers in patterns for emphasis and contrast.

The Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost, is no exception.

The LORD commanded the Israelites to determine the appointed Feast of Weeks by counting seven weeks, or seven “sevens,” from the day after the Sabbath of Firstfruits. After counting these seven weeks, or 49 days, the next day — or 50th day — was to be the holy convocation of Pentecost. Interestingly, this means that both the Feast of Firstfruits and the Feast of Pentecost will always fall on the day after the Sabbath, or the first day of the week, which is Sunday.

The Feast of Weeks is also known as the Feast of the Harvest of the Firstfruits (Exodus 23:16), and the First Fruits of the Wheat Harvest (Exodus 34:22) and is called in Hebrew, Shavuot.

Eventually this feast became known as Pentecost because it was observed on the 50th day — from the Greek “penta,” or fifty. It is the second of the three great feasts of Israel, where all the eligible males were to present themselves before the LORD in Jerusalem. It also was a one-day celebration that commemorated the conclusion of the barley harvest and the continuation of the wheat harvest in the land.

As we will see, however, there is another significant event in Israel’s history that may be directly associated with Pentecost.

The Covenant of Sinai

The LORD redeemed Israel out of Egypt with wonders and an outstretched arm, showing His supremacy over Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt. The Israelites were saved from the angel of death by the blood of the Passover lamb and then made haste out of Egypt with unleavened bread in hand.

As Moses led the Israelites on their journey to the Promised Land, the LORD purposely turned them toward the Gulf of Aqaba (Red Sea) opposite of Arabia, and it was here on the shores of the sea that the LORD would bring His final act of judgment upon Pharaoh

The LORD parted the sea so that His people would cross on dry land, and then He brought the waters crashing down upon Pharaoh’s army. As the Israelites stood safely on the other side and saw the bodies of Pharaoh’s army washing up in the sea, they realized that for the first time in over 400 years — they were free!

The Israelites had been redeemed by God and had become a nation reborn — a people of God’s own possession. After witnessing firsthand God’s deliverance, Moses and the people broke out in joyous song.

“Who is like You among the gods, O LORD? Who is like You—majestic in holiness, revered with praises, performing wonders? You stretched out Your right hand, and the earth swallowed them up. With loving devotion You will lead the people You have redeemed; with Your strength You will guide them to Your holy dwelling.”

[Exodus 15:11-13]

After meandering through the rugged terrain of the Arabian mountains, the LORD led Israel to the base of a holy mountain — Sinai. It was here at Sinai that the LORD entered into covenant with the people He had redeemed. It was on this mountain that the LORD manifested His power and glory in perhaps the greatest theophany in human history. It was on Sinai that Israel would receive God’s law and agree to keep it.

Later Jewish tradition says that the LORD gave the law to Moses precisely on the day of Pentecost, although there is no real Biblical or historical evidence for this. Exodus 19:1 says that it was in the third month, on the 15th day, that Israel camped at the base of the mountain.

The most conservative calculations using this date would place the giving of the law around 59 days after Firstfruits, which obviously would be beyond the 50th day of Pentecost, yet some scholars have gone to great lengths to reconcile the two.

Either way, it is worth noting that there are obvious parallels and typological connections between the Sinai covenant and the sealing of the New Covenant on Pentecost in Acts 2, which I will explore in my next post.

Once again, the Feast of Weeks has been fulfilled through the coming of Yeshua and the subsequent sending of the Holy Spirit to dwell within His people.

The Feast of Firstfruits Fulfilled

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

[1 Corinthians 15:20]

The significance of New Testament language and imagery is lost without a thorough knowledge of the Old Testament, and likewise the significance of the Feasts of the LORD is found in the Person and work of Yeshua the Messiah. God the Son came into the world to fulfill the law and the prophets and literally to bring the Feasts of the LORD to life!

He laid down His perfect life as our Passover lamb, shedding His innocent blood to save us from our sin and death.

After being buried, His physical body did not decay in the grave, which is an absolute fulfillment of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

And on the day after the Sabbath, as predicted by the Feast of Firstfruits — early on the first day of the week — the Lord Jesus Christ was gloriously and miraculously resurrected from death to life!

As we peer more closely into this most significant event in human history, we will see how Jesus becomes the Firstfruits of our future hope in the coming harvest on the last day.

An Acceptable Sacrifice

One of the first connections we see between the resurrection of Christ and Firstfruits is that the priest was to wave the sheaf of barley during on the day after the Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Naturally, the day after the Sabbath is Sunday, the first day of the week and the day of new beginnings. In the gospel of Mark it says, “Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene …” [Mark 16:9].

Secondly, the priest was to inspect the firstfruits offering and officially bless it before the ensuing harvest could be declared acceptable unto God. In the same way it is the resurrection of the Jesus that make us acceptable to God!

“He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”

[Romans 4:25]

The resurrection of Jesus Christ was the divine validation and public declaration that His atoning sacrifice was accepted by God. In other words, without the validation of the resurrection, Jesus would have died in vain.

Jesus is the Firstfruits from among the Dead

The Apostle Paul acknowledges the divine nature of Christ as Creator and calls Him the “firstborn from among the dead so that in everything He might be preeminent” [Colossians 1:18]. Jesus is preeminent, meaning the beginning, the head, the supreme Lord over all creation, and as the first to rise from the dead in a glorified body, He alone possesses the power to give life to all who believe in Him. Our only future hope of resurrection is found in Christ.

“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”

[Romans 8:11]

Jesus is the FIRST to rise from the dead, which obviously implies that He will not be the last! Just as the priest waved the firstfruits of the barley harvest before the people as a symbolic promise of the harvest to come, so Jesus was put on display in His resurrected glory as the living testimony of what is to come in the future resurrection from the dead. We have good news to proclaim. There is a harvest coming!

“To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”

[Acts 26:22-23]

Waiting for the Future Harvest

If spring is a time of planting and watering and autumn is the season of the harvest, then the last 2,000 years of history represent the long summer season of both working and waiting for the return of the Lord Jesus. He is the Firstfruits of the future resurrection of the saints, but we are still waiting out the last few days of the summer before He comes to harvest the earth.

After His death, burial and resurrection, the Lord Jesus showed Himself to many witnesses for a period of 40 days. Just prior to His ascension, He told His disciples something profound. He told them that there was much work to be done before the restoration of all things.

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons (appointed feasts) that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

[Acts 1:6-8]

Jesus wanted to make sure that the disciples remained focused on their primary mission — the Great Commission — by making disciples of all nations and proclaiming the gospel to all of creation. God has been working this “summer” season to redeem people from every nation, tribe, and language, as a people for His own possession. By the time this summer season of grace has been extended to the Gentiles, God’s people will be scattered to all four corners of the earth.

It was not for the disciples and their generation, however, to be concerned about the future fulfillment of the appointed feasts and final harvest on the last day. That would be revealed to another future generation — perhaps our very own.

The days of summer work are nearing the end and the waiting period for the harvest is quickly closing. Jesus has promised to give life to our mortal bodies and redeem us from the bondage of suffering and physical death once and for all. Only Jesus can give us what we all are longing for — ultimate and total redemption! Future resurrection! The Coming Kingdom!

So when does this harvest take place? When is the resurrection of the dead? When will all of creation be liberated from its bondage to decay and corruption? When will we receive new, glorified bodies like the Lord Himself?

On the Last Day

As followers of Yeshua, we should be expecting and awaiting the great harvest of the earth, which means our resurrection. Many Scriptures remind us that the future resurrection and harvest of God’s people will occur on the last day at the 2nd Coming of the Lord Jesus. For those of us who believe and have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, we will be delivered in the end and receive resurrected bodies to inherit the Kingdom of God.

Jesus says that the harvest will take place at “the end of the age” [Matthew 13:39], and He also says that those who have believed upon Him will be raised up “on the last day” [John 6:39-40]. Martha believed her brother Lazarus would “rise again in the resurrection at the last day,” after which Jesus declared Himself to be “the resurrection and the life” [John 11:24-25].

Paul, echoing the words of Jesus Himself (see Matthew 24:29-31) declares that the resurrection of the dead will take place at the glorious and triumphant return of the Lord Jesus to earth. Immediately after the great tribulation, the sun and moon will be darkened and the Lord will descend from heaven in a cloud, at the last trump, and will gather His elect from the four winds of heaven (see also 1 Corinthians 15:50-52, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

The Apostle John received confirmation of this great harvest in a vision.

Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.

[Revelation 14:14-16]

The Holy Spirit is the living seal in the soul of every believer, bearing witness with our spirit that we belong to the Father and will one day be adopted into His Kingdom. As Paul says, “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” [Romans 8:23].

Paul also reminds us in His great treatise on the resurrection that Christ has indeed been raised as the firstfruits of our faith and that the rest of God’s purposes must continue in order, just like His appointed seasons. As surely as the summer follows spring and the autumn follows summer, so will we follow the Lord Jesus in the resurrection on that Day when He is glorified in all His saints!

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 

[1 Corinthians 15:20-24]

The Feast of Firstfruits — Part 1

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, and he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.”

[Leviticus 23:9-11]

Following the blood sacrifice of the Passover and during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the LORD commemorated another holy convocation for the children of Israel to observe each year — Firstfruits. As with all of the Feasts of the LORD, Firstfruits is brimming with symbolic significance concerning the coming of Messiah, more specifically with His resurrection from the dead.

The Feasts of the LORD directly are connected to the Promised Land of Israel and subsequently to the produce of the land. Everything revolves around the seasons of planting and harvest in an agricultural society, and the LORD knew that the symbolic word pictures in the feasts could best be communicated to His people through the natural rhythms of agrarian life.

What are ‘Firstfruits?’

The concept of firstfruits is a thread that runs consistently throughout Scripture. Abel understood the importance of bringing his firstborn and choicest portions from his flocks as an offering to the LORD (Genesis 4:4). The LORD required the Israelites to consecrate every firstborn son uniquely to His service (Exodus 13:1-2) and also set apart the sons of Levi for lifetime service to the priesthood.

The Israelites were expected to bring the firstfuits of their harvest as a tithe (tenth) to the LORD, which would be used to feed the poor, sojourners, orphans, and widows in the land (Deuteronomy 26). The LORD later rebuked the Jews in Malachi’s day for “robbing God” by holding back the best of their flocks and grain offerings (Malachi 1, 3).

The principle of firstfruits is simple. God expects His people to give their very best to Him FIRST as an act of obedience and worship, while trusting in His promise to provide and bless. Of course this principle can be applied today in any number of ways. We are called to give the LORD the firstfruits of our time, talents, and treasures. Anything less than our very best is unacceptable because the LORD God is worthy to receive our very best.

Waving the Sheaf of Firstfruits

The Feast of Unleavened Bread and Firstfruits occurs in the spring of the year just when the barley harvest is beginning to ripen. God instructed the Israelites that before reaping the barley harvest they were to take a sheaf of the first grain to the priest, who would wave it before the Lord as an offering.

As the priest waved the sheaf of firstfruits to the left and the right, it was representative of the crop throughout the entire land. They did this to acknowledge and thank the Lord in expectation for the coming harvest and to ask His blessing upon it. It was a joyous occasion and an expression of faith in God who provided the firstfruits, believing He also would provide the future harvest.

As we will see later, the Feast of Pentecost (Shavuot) and the fall feasts are also connected to firstfruits and the coming harvest.

Waiting Patiently for the Coming Harvest

The Apostle Paul reminds us that laboring in the kingdom is much like laboring in the fields. He says that some are called to plant seeds, while others may come along and water, but only God causes the growth.

“So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.”

[1 Corinthians 3:7-9]

The Lord Jesus also spoke of the “summer season” of waiting until the coming harvest.

“The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.”

[Matthew 13:37-40]

One of the lessons we learn from the Feast of Firstfruits is the valuable lesson of learning how to wait patiently in hopeful expectation of good things to come. The summer is long and often hard, but the harvest will come. As God’s people, we must regularly be reminded of this essential truth.

“And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

[Romans 8:23-25]

The Feast of Unleavened Bread Fulfilled

And He took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body, given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

[Luke 22:19]

Just as the Israelites were saved out of Egypt on the first Passover night, the Lord Jesus — our Passover Lamb — willingly shed His lifeblood on the cross as the atoning sacrifice for sin. It is by faith in His finished work on the cross that we are forgiven and saved from sin and death.

And just as the Israelites were commanded by God to purge the yeast from their homes and be sustained only by unleavened bread during the hasty Exodus journey, the Lord Jesus willingly gave His body to be bruised and crushed for our benefit. As the LORD God of Israel established the holy convocation of Unleavened Bread, He was teaching His people a valuable lesson about the future coming of Messiah — the Bread of Life.

His Body the Bread

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me …”

[Hebrews 10:5]

If the blood of the Passover Lamb ultimately was fulfilled in the precious blood of Christ, then the Feast of Unleavened Bread prefigured and pointed to the broken body of Christ. The Lord Yeshua often used bread in His teachings to correspond to His body.

John the sixth chapter is full of the body/bread imagery. Yeshua is correlating bread with sustenance and sustenance with life and then contrasting physical life with eternal life.

“Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

[John 6:27]

John 6 is also one of the most misunderstood Gospel passages because of the unusual language used by Yeshua when speaking of his body and blood. After feeding a multitude with only a few small fish and loaves of bread, Yeshua tells his disciples that unless they are willing to “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” [John 6:53]. This extreme hyperbole apparently was too much for many of his followers to process, which resulted in a mass defection from Jesus.

Had they only stayed a little longer to hear Jesus provide his explanation, they would have understood that the Lord was using extreme word pictures to communicate a spiritual concept. He was not advocating some perverse form of cannibalism. He was speaking of the necessity of being filled with the Word of God (living bread) and born of the Spirit of God. “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” [John 6:63].

Yeshua repeatedly refers to Himself as the Bread of Life, and it is during the Passover meal on the night before He was betrayed that Jesus took the unleavened bread (matzah) and broke it before His disciples and told them to eat it as a symbol of the necessary life they would find only in Him. Christ also revealed the new meaning of the unleavened bread, as He told the disciples to proclaim His death as often as they would eat in remembrance of Him.

His body would be bruised and crushed for our iniquities and punished for our sins. We cannot underestimate the human suffering and death of our Savior — in the flesh — as it is essential in understanding the gospel itself.

His Body was Buried

The Apostle Paul received the gospel message and delivered it once and for all to the church as that of first importance.

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried …”

[1 Corinthians 15:3-4a]

The burial of Christ is critical to the integrity of the gospel. Not only is it essential that we understand the literal, physical death of Christ on the cross, but also the burial is the very bridge that creates the path from death to resurrection. A physically dead body must also be a physically resurrected body, not some ghostly apparition or disembodied spirit, which was introduced and suggested by the heretical gnostics.

The body of Jesus — the Bread of Life — was dead, and His lifeless body was wrapped and laid in a tomb. The tomb was sealed. The disciples were despondent. Hope temporarily was lost. But we know that was not the end of the story!

His Body Did Not DeCay in the Grave

For David says concerning him,

“I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.”

[Acts 2:25-27 — Quoted from Psalm 16]

As I shared in my last post, the purpose of the unleavened bread during the Exodus was both practical and prophetic. Unleavened bread would not spoil or ferment as would leavened bread. Unleavened bread could be preserved and consumed by the Israelites to sustain life during the long journey to the Promised Land.

But prophetically speaking, the unleavened bread was always about Jesus and His sinless life. He was free of the yeast of sin and immorality and hypocrisy. He perfectly fulfilled the law of God and no one can convict Him of sin. The unleavened bread was always about His body being wrapped and laid in a tomb. It was always about the promise that God’s Holy One — the Messiah — would suffer and taste the pangs of death but that DEATH COULD NOT HOLD HIM!

Death is our great and final enemy. All mankind is bound inextricably to Adam and because sin came into the world through Adam — and death through sin — then we all will die because we all are sinners. We needed a Savior who first would die on our behalf, but we also needed a Savior who would not remain dead. We needed a Savior who could somehow overcome the pangs of death and reverse the curse of death. And the good news is that Yeshua of Nazareth is all of that and more.

The Apostle Peter puts this into perspective when comparing and contrasting David, who wrote Psalm 16, and Yeshua the Messiah.

“Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.

[Acts 2:29-31]

The body of Jesus — the Unleavened Bread of Life — did not decompose in the grave but rather was preserved and raised victoriously! His flesh did not see corruption. He is the One who now gives life to all who believe in Him and will sustain us and fill us on our journey to the Promised Land.

Jesus of Nazareth is our unleavened bread, and has fulfilled this appointed feast in His first coming, through His death and burial, and as we will see next time, Jesus perfectly completes the feast of first fruits in His glorious resurrection from the dead!

The Feast of Unleavened Bread — Part 1

“And you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day, throughout your generations, as a statute forever.”

[Exodus 12:17]
matzah

Passover is merely the initial 24-hour period for what traditionally is called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Beginning on the day after Passover (Nisan 15) and continuing for the next seven days to Nisan 22, the Feast of Unleavened Bread was established by the LORD as a holy convocation for the children of Israel. Year after year, the Israelites were to reenact the Exodus story by removing all the leaven from their homes and only partaking of unleavened bread for the duration the feast.

So serious was this commandment that the LORD warned, “If anyone eats what is leavened, that person will be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a sojourner or a native of the land” [Exodus 12:19]. One may wonder why the LORD would place such an emphasis on purging the yeast from each home. What’s so bad about yeast? Although certain grain offerings were also to be presented to the priests without yeast (Leviticus 2:11, 7:12), there was no other prohibition in Israel about eating leavened bread.

On the surface there was at least one practical reason the LORD commanded the Hebrews to prepare unleavened bread for the Exodus — preservation. At the very moment the destroying angel killed every firstborn in Egypt, the Israelites had to be ready to make haste and leave immediately. They would be bringing whatever possessions they could carry from Egypt and taking an arduous journey through the wilderness for an indefinite amount of time.

Naturally, it only made sense to prepare food for the journey that would not sour or ruin but that would keep for days to come. Something like the equivalent of the dehydrated meals designed for survival in extreme conditions.

We’ve all likely experienced the effects of yeast first hand.

I can remember as a child that my favorite after school snack was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a cold glass of milk. Nothing was worse than having my mind set on a good ole PB&J only to discover the loaf of bread had soured and was covered in mold. My only option at that point was to look for the next best thing — crackers.

And the one thing I could count on is that if there were any saltines in the house — no matter how old and stale — they at least would be edible.

Why? … Obviously, No yeast.

Yeast is a fungus that binds with the sugars in bread causing it to rise, and while it’s hard to beat fresh-baked bread hot out of the oven, we all know that it won’t keep long because the yeast accelerates the fermentation process and causes the bread to spoil much faster.

Practically, the Israelites needed sustainable food for their journey that would keep during the days and weeks ahead without spoiling. Bread would be essential to keep them alive in a harsh environment, and only unleavened bread could be preserved long enough to meet their most basic need — daily bread.

Yet with nearly everything God does for us and communicates to us, He does so on multiple levels and with a variety of applications — not just physically or practically — but spiritually as well. By using unleavened bread, the LORD was providing an important object lesson for His people, a symbolic picture of something much deeper and much more spiritually significant.

Jesus and His Teachings on Leaven

Yeshua of Nazareth in fulfilling all righteousness as the Messiah of Israel would have faithfully observed the appointed feast of Unleavened Bread His entire life. We know that on the night that Yeshua was betrayed, He observed the Passover with His disciples, and as the Lord led His disciples in the first holy communion of the New Covenant, He brought new significance to the Passover meal. Jesus would have taken the unleavened bread at the table, pronounced a blessing over it, and broke it before giving it to His disciples.

Jesus also regularly used the concept of leaven to teach His disciples about the dangers of sin. By doing this, Jesus was expanding on the symbolic meaning of leaven and contrasting His own character and ministry with that of other religious groups of His day.

“How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

[Matthew 16:11-12]

Jesus began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”

[Luke 12:1]

Jesus clearly associates leaven with the dangerous sins of false teaching and self-righteous hypocrisy. The Apostle Paul also uses the same wordplay when speaking of the dangers of allowing a little leaven (sin) into our lives, which will eventually infect and ruin the whole lump — either as individuals or as a corporate church body [see 1 Corinthians 5].

Leaven, therefore, is a word picture and symbolic representation of sin, hypocrisy, corruption, ruin, and spiritual impurity. This will be critical in understanding the significance of how the Lord Jesus has perfectly fulfilled the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Until next time, I have provided a link which describes how the Jewish community observes the Feast of Unleavened Bread to this day with matzah and other symbolic gestures that point directly to Yeshua the Messiah.

You can discover more here.