© 2023 United Church of God Australia
All correspondence and questions should be sent to . Send inquiries regarding the operation of this Web site to .
The festivals, or holy days, of the Bible are timed around the harvest seasons of the Holy Land—spring, late summer and autumn. Their symbolism reveals how God is carrying out His plan to gather a harvest of humanity into His soon-coming Kingdom.
God identifies these three major harvest seasons in Deuteronomy: "Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed" (Deuteronomy 16:16). Nehemiah 8:1-12 also shows entire families generally observed the festivals of God, including women and children. These three festivals symbolically portray humanity's salvation in successive stages, and each stage involves greater numbers than its predecessor.
The first harvest, symbolized by the spring barley harvest, is the smallest, and is generally referred to as the Passover season, which includes the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread. The wave-sheaf offering takes place during this time (Leviticus 23:10-14), representing Jesus Christ, who was accepted by God after His resurrection on the very day the wave-sheaf offering was waved before God. Just as the first of the annual harvest seasons began with the wave-sheaf offering, the first harvest of humankind to immortality in God's Kingdom began with Jesus Christ. Humanity's salvation is totally dependent on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (John 12:23-25).
The second harvest festival, corresponding to the later wheat harvest in the Holy land, is called the Feast of Pentecost, this being the Greek word for "fiftieth," as the festival was held 50 days after the wave-sheaf offering, counting the wave sheaf as day one (Leviticus 23:15-17). In the Old Testament this festival is also called the Feast of Harvest, Feast of Weeks or simply Firstfruits (Exodus 23:16; Deuteronomy 16:10; Numbers 28:26).
The Feast of Pentecost represents the firstfruits in God's plan for humanity, which includes the Old Testament saints and those who throughout history have been part of the New Testament Church Jesus founded. The spiritual fulfillment of this Feast of Firstfruits began when God sent His Spirit to the original members of His Church—which, significantly, happened on the very day of the Feast of Firstfruits or Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).This harvest of the human firstfruits continues until the return of Christ Jesus, when they are resurrected to eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:50-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).
God's final harvest festival, the great late summer and fall harvest, is the Feast of Ingathering (Exodus 23:16), which offers hope to the billions of people who have never had a chance to learn God’s way of life. This harvest season includes four festivals —the Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day.
The Feast of Trumpets (Leviticus 23:24) depicts Jesus Christ's return to earth at the last trumpet to save humanity (Revelation 11:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:16) and the firstfruits are raised to eternal life. The second festival of this season is the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27-32), signifying the removal of Satan and the demons from their evil spiritual influence over humanity (Revelation 20:1-3).
The third festival is the Feast of Tabernacles, picturing the millennial rule of Jesus Christ, which will be a time of joy and plenty for all of humanity (Micah 4:3-4). As people learn the advantages of living according to God's laws and way of life, peace and the knowledge of God will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9). With Satan gone, even wild animals will have a peaceful temperament (Isaiah 11:6-8) As Ezekiel 36:35 tells us: "This land that was desolate has become like the Garden of Eden; and the wasted, desolate, and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited" (compare Isaiah 51:3).
This 1,000-year period will be preparatory to the events signified by the last annual biblical festival we call the Last Great Day (Leviticus 23:36 and 39) . Revelation 20:11-13 speaks of the White Throne Judgment as the time of salvation for all those who have never known God from the time of Adam and Eve until the second coming of Jesus Christ.
The resurrection of God's faithful servants to immortality at the return of Jesus Christ is referred to as the "first resurrection" in Revelation 20:6. A parenthetical inset in verse 5 explains that "the rest of the dead" are resurrected at the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ and the saints. This "second" resurrection is different in that it is a resurrection to temporary physical life, not to immortal spirit life, as is clearly described in Ezekiel 37:1-14. Billions of people will be resurrected and have an opportunity to learn God’s way of life, receive His Spirit and ultimately His gift of salvation.
The three major harvest seasons reveal to us God's master plan for saving all humanity through all ages. Although humanity faces increasing troubles on the horizon, God has not left us, or the billions who will follow us, without protection and great hope.
The Good News Magazine (Sep-Oct 2003)