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.

The Feast of Passover Fulfilled

For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed…

[1 Corinthians 5:7]

The parallels between the Passover and the Passion of Yeshua the Messiah simply are astounding. The Passover Feast paints not only the big picture of God’s redemptive work through the Messiah but also satisfies even the most intricate details.

As a disclaimer, I will say that this post will not attempt to harmonize the exact timing of the crucifixion of Jesus as it coincided with the offering of the passover lambs in Jerusalem. I will admit that while some scholars have gone to great lengths to prove that Jesus was literally crucified the exact day and hour of the Passover (14th of Nisan), there are some Scriptural nuances and complexities that create clear challenges — challenges that go beyond the scope of this article.

Although we know Jesus most certainly was crucified during the week of Passover, it is difficult to prove from the Biblical text that He was being sacrificed at the very moment the Jews were offering their own passover lambs at twilight on the 14th of Nisan.

For example, the Gospels clearly portray Jesus sharing a Passover meal (Last Supper) with His disciples the night before He is betrayed and crucified. The Gospels also agree that He died on the day of Preparation before a Sabbath (which may not have been Saturday but rather a High Sabbath rest on the first day of Unleavened Bread).

So one obvious question is, “if Jesus observed the Passover with His disciples, then how could He have already been at killed on Passover?”

Like I said, this is just one of many complex issues that requires scholarly attention, which is not my aim here. I for one believe that there are sufficient answers to reconcile these challenges but either way, I don’t want to lose focus from the bigger picture, which is how God purposefully and powerfully reveals Christ in the Passover Feast.

The Big Picture

“Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”

[1 Peter 1:18-19]

Paul calls Jesus our “Passover lamb.” John the Baptist says of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” [John 1:29]. Peter likens Christ to a “lamb without blemish or spot.” The Apostle John in a vision heard the host of heaven glorifying the Risen Lord Jesus, saying “Worthy is the Lamb!” [Revelation 5:12]

All of these descriptions are directly connected to the Feast of Passover and the fulfillment found in Christ, our Passover. Let us consider many of the big picture elements found in the Passover.

The Exodus account portrays a people enslaved in sin, in bondage to a cruel master (Pharaoh) and trapped in the evil Egyptian system of oppression (i.e. the world). The Israelites are without hope and powerless to save themselves, and yet the LORD hears their cries and pleas for mercy and comes in power working wonders to bring judgment on Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt, to redeem Israel out of slavery, and to claim them as a people for His own possession — giving them new life, a new home, a hope, and a future.

At the same time the LORD raises up a deliverer for Israel — Moses — who takes on the roles of Prophet, Deliverer, Ruler, Mediator, Judge, and Shepherd of God’s people. The many parallels between Moses and the Lord Jesus deserve a separate study altogether, as Moses is one of the great Old Testament types of the Messiah.

Now compare the Exodus story to the greater redemptive work of Christ Jesus, who entered His own creation — brining light into this dark and evil world — so that He might preach the good news to the poor and set the captives free and proclaim liberty the oppressed.

It is Jesus who looked down with mercy upon this world, seeing us in our sinful condition, unable to save ourselves and trapped in a world system under the heavy hand of a cruel master, the devil, who is the ruler of this world.

It is Jesus who came declaring the Word of God and the Way of salvation to all people, working wonders and miracles to validate His message.

It is Jesus who came to destroy the works of the devil and openly put to shame the spiritual rulers and principalities of evil in this dark world. It is Jesus who came to redeem a people out of bondage for His own possession, delivering us from the domain of darkness into God’s Kingdom.

“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]

Jesus will lead his people into the greater Promised Land, a better country (Hebrews 11:16), as He has gone to prepare a place for all who belong to Him. Jesus came as God in the flesh, the Prophet greater than Moses, and remains our Great High Priest and One True Mediator between God and man.

Ultimately, Jesus gave His own life as a ransom for many, shedding His precious blood on the cross as the atoning sacrifice necessary and sufficient to pay for the sins of the whole world. It was through this one heroic act of self sacrifice, as Jesus stretched out his arm, where the love and justice of God converged, providing salvation for all mankind.

And they sang a new song: “Worthy are You to take the scroll and open its seals, because You were slain, and by Your blood You purchased for God those from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them into a kingdom, priests to serve our God, and they will reign upon the earth.”

[Revelation 5:9-10]

Down to the Details

Let us not forget the purpose of establishing these feasts as holy convocations, or dress rehearsals, for God’s people. Every detail of the Passover Feast was meant to invoke an image or a symbol of the coming Messiah, and when we examine the Lord Jesus Christ, He is the substance of every shadow picture portrayed in the Passover.

  1. Passover lamb was male – Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. The angel told Mary that she would bear a son and call Him Jesus because He would save His people from their sins.
  2. Four days of examination – just as the Passover lamb had to be brought into the home and cared for and examined for four days before the sacrifice, Jesus entered into Jerusalem four days prior to being crucified so that He could be closely watched and examined by the Jews one last time.
  3. Without Defect or Blemish – the one-year old male lamb most importantly could have no defect or deformity or infirmity. Even the smallest spot of its wool would disqualify the lamb for acceptable sacrifice. In the same way, no one could convict Jesus of sin. As Peter says, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth” [1 Peter 2:22]. Because Jesus was perfectly righteous and without sin, He alone could qualify as the acceptable Sacrifice of God for the sins of the world.
  4. Sacrificed at Twilight – the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed by the priest at twilight, just before sundown. Jesus died during Passover week at 3 pm, which was considered the beginning of the twilight window for sacrifice.
  5. Hyssop Plant – The Israelites were to smear the blood of the lamb on their doorposts with a hyssop plant. Ironically, as Jesus agonized on the cross, the Roman guards offered Jesus sour wine on a hyssop plant (John 19:29).
  6. Atoning Blood Sacrifice – The Passover Lamb was innocent and yet its blood would be the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the people, because without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. In the same way, Jesus was offered as the atoning sacrifice for our sin, our substitute. He died in our place so that we may live.
  7. Smearing the Blood on the Doorframes – As the Israelites took the hyssop and smeared the blood on the wooden doorframes of their homes, they were symbolically drawing a crucifix in the blood the lamb — another picture of the bloodstained cross of Christ as He was nailed to a tree.
  8. Saved by Grace through Faith – let us not forget that the Israelites were saved on Passover not because of any work they had done but only by believing the good news of salvation that the LORD had provided. They had to exercise faith and believe that what God had said was true and then obey His commandment. We too are saved by the grace of God – His provision through Christ – through faith.
  9. Only One Way – notice that there was only one way the Israelites could be saved from the angel of death. Any attempt to circumvent God’s way of salvation or attempt to be saved another way would have resulted in imminent death. Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me” [John 14:6].
  10. The angel of death passed over – Only the homes covered by the blood of the lamb were saved from the destroying angel, and likewise only those of us who have believed in God’s only provision for salvation and are covered by the blood of Jesus Christ will be saved from death and destruction. Jesus says that whoever believes in Him has not come into judgment but has crossed over from death into life! [John 5:24]

Obviously, entire books have been written to compare and contrast the Passover with the redemptive work of Jesus Christ; therefore, I won’t dare attempt an exhaustive examination of this sacred appointed feast.

My primary goal is to demonstrate how Jesus of Nazareth perfectly and completely fulfilled the Passover Feast in His first coming — during the actual Passover Feast! The Appointed times and seasons of these feasts are not at random but have prophetic purpose.

And as we will see with the Feast of Unleavened Bread and following, Yeshua the Messiah fulfills all the Feasts of the LORD, giving further validation that He is the Jewish Messiah and True Savior of the world.

The Feast of Passover — Part 1

“The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.”

[Exodus 12:13]

The LORD established the Biblical feasts for His people to serve as holy convocations (literal rehearsals) both to remember God’s faithfulness in the past and also to foreshadow symbolic pictures of the good things to come in Messiah.

When it comes to understanding these sacred feasts, the Passover is the natural place to begin. Passover not only represents God’s unforgettable work of redeeming His people Israel out of Egyptian bondage, but also it signifies the literal birth of a new nation and beginning of a new year of liberty for God’s people. As we will see with all of the feasts, Passover is abundantly rich with Messianic hope and fulfillment, as Yahweh used this monumental and miraculous occasion to point His people to even greater things to come.

As the Apostle Paul says …

“Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a feast or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.”

[Colossians 2:16-17]

The Exodus

The only way to understand and appreciate the Passover is to revisit its origin in the true account of the Exodus. Yahweh — the LORD — had entered into an everlasting covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants after them. This covenant included the land, a nation, blessing, and the Seed of promise — Messiah. The LORD made a promise to Abram that later would be realized through the Exodus from Egypt.

Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.”

[Genesis 15:13-14]

As predicted, the Israelites became enslaved in Egypt under the heavy hand of Pharaoh and suffered for 400 years, while at the same time growing into a great nation. When the fullness of time had come, the LORD raised up a deliverer in Moses and sent him to bring judgment on Pharaoh and redemption for His people.

After a barrage of plagues solidified the hardness of Pharaoh’s rebellious heart, the LORD informed Moses that a 10th and final plague was coming upon the land of Egypt — a plague of death for every firstborn son. Before sending the destroying angel to carry out this severe judgment, the LORD told Moses how the Israelites would be saved from certain death.

The LORD provided only one way for His people to be saved, which required unwavering faith and total obedience. The Passover would become the day of salvation for Israel. The day of new birth. The day of deliverance.

The Passover

Let’s revisit some of the critical details about the Passover.

  1. The LORD commanded each family to select a lamb on the 10th day of Nisan and examine and care for it until the 14th day Nisan [Exodus 12:1-6]
  2. The lamb had to be a male, one year old, and most importantly without blemish or defect [Exodus 12:5]
  3. Just before sunset on the 14th day of Nisan, each family was then to sacrifice the innocent lamb and smear its blood on the doorframes of each dwelling using a hyssop branch [Exodus 12:6-7]
  4. The family was then commanded to eat the lamb, along with other bitter herbs and unleavened bread [Exodus 12:8-10]
  5. All of the Israelites were to pack up and eat in haste and be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice [Exodus 12:11]
  6. All of the Israelites were to remain inside their dwellings until the destroying angel passed through the land, killing every firstborn son in Egypt [Exodus 12:12]
  7. The lamb’s blood on the doorposts would serve as a “sign” for God’s people, as the angel of the LORD would passover the bloodstained wood, saving them from God’s destructive judgment [Exodus 12:13]
  8. This is the LORD’s Passover, which “shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.” [Exodus 12:14]

The Observance of Passover in Israel

The Feast of Passover/Unleavened Bread was one of three appointed feasts in which the LORD required all the eligible men of Israel to present themselves in Jerusalem [Deuteronomy 16:16]. Despite the LORD’s clear command that the Passover was to remembered as a holy convocation each year, the Bible says that by the time of the Judges, God’s people neglected to keep the Passover for 500 years! It wasn’t until King Josiah discovered the scroll of Torah in the Temple that the Passover was reinstated in Judah.

“And the king commanded all the people, ‘Keep the Passover to the LORD your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.’ For no such Passover had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel, or during all the days of the kings of Israel or of the kings of Judah.”

[2 Kings 23:21-22]

We also know that Passover was observed within the religious culture of Jesus’ day because Jesus commanded His own disciples to prepare the Passover meal before his death. He would have observed all the appointed feasts in order to fulfill all righteousness and satisfy the requirements of the law.

“And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.  For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’”

[Luke 22:13-16]

As we will see next time, Passover ultimately strikes at the heart of the gospel and provides one of the most significant pictures of the sacrificial death of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Stay tuned.

Rediscovering the Appointed Feasts of the LORD

“Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”

[1 Thessalonians 5:1-2]

The early New Testament church primarily consisted of Jewish believers who embraced the Salvation and Lordship of Yeshua of Nazareth and were witnesses to His glory as the Unique Son of God. These Jewish believers were zealous for the law of Moses and were able to understand how the testimony of the Torah and the prophets had been fulfilled in part by the very Person and work of Yeshua.

Yeshua Himself proclaimed that He came not to abolish but rather to fulfill the law and the prophets [Matthew 5:17] and bring greater significance and meaning to the writings of the Old Testament [Luke 24:27]. With this new perspective, the Jewish believers in Jesus would have been able to read their sacred Scriptures afresh with new eyes and with the assistance of the Holy Spirit and proclaim with confidence the good news of the Messiah to the whole world!

Unfortunately, as more and more Gentile believers were grafted in by faith and incorporated into the commonwealth of Israel, the Jewish roots of our faith gradually were forgotten, anti-semitism began to poison the church, and the Roman Catholic Church began to dominate the ecclesiastical direction of Christendom. The heretical doctrine of replacement theology (supersessionism) has since infected large segments of the church (especially in reformed circles), which has effectively diminished the essential role of the Old Testament in understanding the New Testament.

Case in point.

Consider the Appointed Feasts of the LORD, which He prescribed and established to be remembered and celebrated by God’s people FOREVER as literal dress rehearsals in preparation for the coming of Messiah. Without a proper understanding of these seven sacred feasts, much of what God intended for us to know has been lost in translation and ignored for centuries.

Yet in returning to a robust study and understanding of these unique feasts, the LORD is willing to reveal the deep truths of His prophetic timeline to all who are paying attention and who seek wisdom in the last days.

For the foreseeable future, my goal is to begin to rediscover the purpose of the appointed Feasts of the LORD and how they unlock the keys to understanding the first and second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The 7 Feasts of the LORD

“The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the LORD that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts.'”

[Leviticus 23:1-2]

When is the last time your pastor preached a riveting series through the book of Leviticus?

How about never ….

While the book of Leviticus is most often avoided like the plague by modern churches, the Israelites historically have considered Leviticus as foundational to understanding the law of Moses and regarded its teachings as primary among all the writings of Torah.

The book of Leviticus provides in depth details into the purpose and application of the law, the priesthood and the sacrificial system, among other things, but it also provides the comprehensive description of the Feasts of the LORD. These feasts are not the feasts of Israel. They are the appointed Feasts of the LORD, and God intended them to be observed forever, throughout all generations. As we will see in subsequent posts, these feasts were to be made holy by God’s people and meticulously followed in detail.

In essence, the LORD gave the feasts to Israel to serve as a regular rehearsals of things to come. In other words by observing the feasts, God’s people symbolically would act out the very picture of salvation that Messiah would bring in His coming. The great irony is that had the Jews only recognized what they had been rehearsing through the feasts for centuries, none of them would have missed their Messiah, who perfectly fulfilled the spring feasts of the LORD in His first advent.

Spring Feasts

Primarily there are four spring feasts and three fall feasts on the Jewish religious calendar. [We also will later consider Hanukkah, Purim and Tisha B’Av]

All of them are sacred and significant, and I pray that this series of posts will help ignite a newfound appreciation for the Feasts of the LORD and an eager expectation among the church for the return of Christ.

The spring feasts are …

  1. PESACH (PASSOVER) — Observed at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month (Nisan)
  2. CHAG HAMATZOT (UNLEAVENED BREAD) — Observed on the 15th day of Nisan (the day after Passover)
  3.  BIKKURIM (THE FEAST OF FIRSTFRUITS) — Observed on the 21st of Nisan
  4. SHAVUOT (FEAST OF WEEKS/PENTECOST) — Observed 7 weeks after Passover in the month of Sivan

Fall Feasts

Likewise, the fall feasts are …

  1. YOM TERUAH (ROSH HASHANAH/FEAST OF TRUMPETS) — Observed on the first day of the seventh month of Tishrei, which must be determined by the new moon. This is the first of the year on the Hebrew civic Calendar
  2. YOM KIPPUR (DAY OF ATONEMENT) — the most holy day on the Jewish calendar, observed on the 10th day of the month of Tishrei
  3. SUKKOT (FEAST OF TABERNACLES) — Observed on the 15th Day of Tishrei

As we will see, these 7 Feats of the LORD are rich with prophetic fulfillment and expectation, and I look forward to rediscovering the intended meaning within these holy days, especially in how they relate to these last days and the return of King Jesus.

Stay tuned for my next installment, as I intend to explore the significance of the Lord’s Passover.