During Christ’s life on earth, He observed the seven annual festivals described in the Bible. It’s important we study and observe these biblical Holy Days with an understanding of their proper New Testament perspective which point to our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Have you ever heard of the Feast of Tabernacles, the Days of Unleavened Bread or the Day of Atonement? These special celebrations are found in both the Old and New Testaments, and Jesus Christ not only observed these festivals, He is central to them. The widely held belief that these are Jewish festivals and have nothing to do with the New Testament or Christianity today is incorrect.
When we observe these festivals, we are celebrating the mission and work of Jesus Christ—what He has done, what He is doing now, and what He will do in the future. They are key to developing a closer relationship with God, and understanding how He is bringing salvation to the entire world!
The first of the festivals is the Passover, immediately followed by the Days of Unleavened Bread. The Passover was a major part of ancient Israel’s Exodus from Egypt, but it’s much more than an Old Testament observance. It is actually mentioned 28 times in the New Testament.
The New Testament Passover is about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who is so profound and holy, that without Him there is no hope for mankind. Even in the Old Testament, the Passover pointed to Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for all humanity. He is our true Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7)
The seven-day observance of Feast of Unleavened Bread begins the day after Passover. Christians, who observe this festival focus on striving to put sin out of their lives and leavening, for the purpose of this festival season, represents sin.
The apostle Paul understood the New Testament application of this festival and taught it to gentile Christians in the city of Corinth: “Therefore purge out the old leaven [a reference to the Days of Unleavened Bread], that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast [of Unleavened Bread], not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).
Eating unleavened bread during this festival, reminds us that Christ, the “bread of life” and the “living bread which came down from heaven” (John 6:35 and 51), is the ultimate example of the sincerity and truth the unleavened bread represents.
The New Testament observance of the Days of Unleavened Bread teaches us about the resurrected Christ who died for our sins so that we can leave a life of sin and have the hope of eternal life
According to Jewish tradition, God gave Israel the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai on the day of Pentecost, but the Israelites did not have the Holy Spirit and they failed to obey the laws God had given them.
When Jesus was about to ascend to heaven following His resurrection, the apostles were perplexed because their risen Lord was being taken from them. But Jesus had already promised He would not leave them as orphans (John 14:18), and both He and the Father would come to them by and through the power of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-23). And after Christ’s ascension to His Father in heaven this did occur. His disciples were empowered by the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, as we read in the second chapter of Acts.
As we celebrate this festival in the 21st century, we are reminded of the transforming power of God’s Holy Spirit.
This is the festival anticipating Jesus Christ’s return and the resurrection of His followers.
In 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 Paul writes: “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 incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
The New Testament clearly shows that at what is called the first resurrection, with the blowing of a great trumpet, “the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
The Feast of Trumpets pictures the time when Jesus Christ returns and imposes His Kingdom in place of every human government. It also pictures the resurrection of the “dead in Christ” (1 Thessalonians 4:16) and the change to a glorified spirit life.
The Day of Atonement is the most unusual of the Holy Days. It’s a day on which food or drink is not taken. It’s called a “fast” (Leviticus 23:26-32; Acts 27:9). This observance looks forward to the time when Satan is banished and God offers reconciliation to all who have ever lived.
This world will not know true peace until Satan, the ultimate deceiver, is made powerless. With this done, the eyes of mankind will be opened and spiritual healing and the forgiveness of sins because of Christ’s sacrifice will be recognised as people repent and draw near to God.
The Day of Atonement looks forward to Christ returning to the earth and commissioning an angel to banish Satan into the bottomless pit (Revelation 20:1-3), so he will no longer be able to deceive the nations for a thousand years.
This seven-day festival celebrates Jesus Christ’s millennial rule over the entire earth. After Satan is banished and Christ returns, the world will enjoy a 1,000-year period of peace and prosperity (Revelation 20:1-6)—which theologians often refer to as the Millennium (meaning simply 1,000 years).
Jesus observed this Festival and instructed His followers to do so as well (John 7:2-14). In Old Testament times, the Israelites observed this time by gathering in Jerusalem and dwelling in small huts or booths, while rejoicing in worshipping God (Leviticus 23:40).
The Old Testament directly links the reign of Christ on the earth with the observance of the Feast of Tabernacles (Zechariah 14:16-21). His reign will create what human government has not been able to accomplish—peace, true justice and the opportunity for godly knowledge to flourish.
Following the Feast of Tabernacles there’s a final feast day (Leviticus 23:36) designated as the Eighth Day, distinct from the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles. This final, annual festival offers the greatest hope for all mankind.
Many worry about loved ones who died without receiving salvation through Jesus Christ. But God is a God of love and will never allow anyone to be lost without first being given a fair opportunity to hear and understand the Gospel message.
The prophecy of Ezekiel 37 speaks of a great resurrection of those who died without having understood God’s great plan. While specifically referring to Israel, this prophecy gives us an understanding of what God intends for the entire human race as foretold in Revelation 20:5 and 11-12.
These verses, along with other biblical passages, tell us a time is coming when those who died without the full knowledge of God will be given their opportunity for salvation, by finally recognizing Christ for who He really is—our Lord and our Saviour.
The Holy Days of God give us an overview of God’s great plan of salvation, which is dependent upon Jesus Christ who became a man, died for our sins, and who now sits at the right hand of the Father.
It’s something everyone needs to check into and decide whether or not they should observe these biblical festivals.
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