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God's seven biblical festivals are centred around the three major harvest seasons of the Holy Land: the barley harvest, the later spring wheat harvest, and the greater late summer and fall harvest. The meaning of these festivals reveals how God is carrying out His plan for the salvation of humanity.
These three major harvest seasons are mentioned in Deuteronomy 16: "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..." These three festivals symbolically portray humanity's salvation in successive stages, with each stage involving greater numbers.
The first harvest season, the barley harvest, is the smallest and most significant. It is usually referred to as the Passover season and includes the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. During the Passover/Unleavened Bread season the wave-sheaf offering (Leviticus 23:10-14) takes place, representing only one man—Jesus Christ. Christ fulfilled the symbolism of the wave-sheaf offering, when He was accepted by God after His resurrection. This took place on the very day the wave-sheaf offering was waved before God before the barley harvest began.
Just as the first of the annual harvest seasons began with the wave-sheaf offering, the first harvest of humankind into God's Kingdom began with Jesus Christ. Humanity's salvation is absolutely dependent on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (John 12:23-25).
The second harvest festival is the Feast of Pentecost, observed 50 days after the wave-sheaf offering (Leviticus 23:15-17). This festival is called the Feast of Harvest, Feast of Weeks or simply Firstfruits (Exodus 23:16; Deuteronomy 16:10; Numbers 28:26). It represents the harvesting of the firstfruits in God's plan for humanity, which includes the Old Testament saints and those throughout history who were part of the New Testament Church.
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 Jesus Christ, when they are resurrected to eternal life as immortal spirit beings (1 Corinthians 15:50-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).
God's final harvest festival, the Feast of Ingathering (Exodus 23:16), offers the greatest hope to an otherwise hopeless humanity. This harvest season includes four different festivals. They are the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day.
The Feast of Trumpets is the first of the four festivals of this season (Leviticus 23:24), depicting Jesus Christ's return to earth to save humankind (Revelation 11:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:16) and set up a world-ruling kingdom: "And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever" (Daniel 2:44).
The second festival of this season is the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27-32) symbolising the removal of Satan and the demons and their evil influence on humanity (Revelation 20:1-3).
The third festival is the Feast of Tabernacles, representing Christ’s millennial rule on earth, along with the resurrected saints (Revelation 20:4-6). Just as the Feast of Tabernacles was a time of joy and plenty in ancient Israel, the millennial rule of Jesus Christ will be a time of joy and plenty for all humanity. As people learn to live according to God's laws, peace and the knowledge of God will spread throughout all the earth (Isaiah 11:9). With Satan gone, even wild animals will have a peaceful temperament (Isaiah 11:6-8).
This 1,000-year period will be preparatory to the events signified by the final annual festival. Revelation 20:11-13 refers to the White Throne Judgment, a separate Holy Day immediately following the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:36, 39). This festival represents the time when all the many billions who never had their opportunity for salvation will finally receive it.
Revelation 20:6 refers to the resurrection of God's faithful servants to immortality at the return of Jesus Christ as the "first resurrection." 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 described in Ezekiel 37:1-14. These people will then have an opportunity to repent, receive God's Spirit and ultimately His gift of salvation.
God shows us through the symbolism of His annual Holy Days that one day this earth will become a worldwide Garden of Eden and all those who have ever lived will be given the opportunity for salvation.
The Good News Magazine