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The Apostle Paul described the festivals of the Bible as ‘shadows of things to come’ (Colossians 2:17), that is prophesied events in which Jesus Christ will play the central role.
In Leviticus 23:2 God told the Israelites: “The feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts." Yet for most of traditional Christianity, these "feasts of the Lord" are regarded as meaningless, and new religious holidays have been substituted, although these feasts teach us important truths about Jesus Christ.
The Passover is the first of God's annual feast days, commemorating ancient Israel's miraculous liberation from Egypt, but this feast symbolises much more than the Israelites' departure from Egypt. On the night before His death, Jesus knew He was fulfilling the symbolism of the Passover lamb in voluntarily giving His life for the sins of the world, and He instituted new symbols representing His greater sacrifice. The unleavened bread represents His sinless body beaten for us, and the wine signifies His blood which washed away our sins (Luke 22:14-20). The Passover is an annual reminder and symbol of Christ's sacrifice for all of us.
In the Old Testament, the Days of Unleavened Bread were a memorial of what occurred after the Passover night, when the children of Israel hurriedly baked unleavened bread before leaving Egypt. God commands us to keep this feast in Leviticus 23:6. The Apostle Paul not only explained the significance of the Passover observance to the Corinthian Christians, but also the necessity for them to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).
Jesus Christ is the focus of this feast because it is His sacrifice that removes our sins so we become spiritually "unleavened," and He also helps us to live sin-free lives. As the Apostle Jude noted, Jesus "is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 1:24).
The Feast of Pentecost is called the Feast of Weeks in the Old Testament (Exodus 34:22).
Fifty days after Christ’s resurrection, Acts 2 tells us the followers of Christ were observing Pentecost, when they received the Holy Spirit from God.
After this miraculous event Pentecost became the anniversary of the receiving of God's Spirit, which God gives upon repentance and baptism, beginning a process of spiritual transformation, called conversion. Thus Jesus is at the center of the Feast of Pentecost, although the ultimate fulfillment will occur when He returns and establishes God's Kingdom, giving all access to God's Spirit. So this feast is a memorial and also a shadow of things to come.
The Feast of Trumpets is also a shadow of Jesus Christ’s role in the future. The symbolism of the trumpet is mentioned when Jesus Christ returns to this earth: "... and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matthew 24:30-31).
The Apostle Paul also describes this first resurrection of the dead in Christ at the time of a great trumpet announcing Christ's return in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16.
The Day of Atonement is perhaps the most unusual of the biblical feasts. In Old Testament times the high priest presented two male goats, the first of which was sacrificed for the nation's sins (Leviticus 16:15). Then the sins of the nation were symbolically placed on the other goat, and it was expelled into the desert (Leviticus 16:21-22).
Jesus Christ, described as "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8), fulfilled the role of the male goat slain for the sins of Israel (Leviticus 16:27). The second goat, over which the sins of the Israelites were confessed, represented Satan the Devil, the instigator of those sins. At Christ's second coming, Satan will be bound and restrained for 1,000 years, just as the live goat was exiled from the Israelite camp on the Day of Atonement (Revelation 20:1-2).
Christ plays a dual role in the symbolism of the Day of Atonement. He is sacrificed as the first goat for the sins of the people, and He will also be involved, as King of Kings, in banishing Satan for a time to establish the Kingdom of God on earth.
The Israelites kept the Feast of Tabernacles to remind them of God's miraculous interventions during the 40-year period in the wilderness (Leviticus 23:42-43).
The Apostle John tells us "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). The Greek term for "dwelt" here means He "tabernacled" among us. At Christ's second coming, He will again "tabernacle" or dwell with His people for a thousand years during the Millennium, along with the resurrected saints (I Thessalonians 4:17). "Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years" (Revelation 20:6). This 1,000-year rule of Jesus Christ over the earth is the ultimate fulfillment of this feast.
The Eighth Day is observed as the seventh annual festival (Leviticus 23:36) after the Feast of Tabernacles, and also centres around prophetic events involving Jesus Christ.
After Christ's 1,000-year reign with the saints (Revelation 20:6) He will then resurrect all who have ever lived to physical life and give them a chance to respond to His way of life. (Revelation 20:11-12). This second resurrection is called the White Throne Judgment, when Christ will provide all mankind who have ever lived an opportunity to receive God's Spirit. (See the next article in this issue ‘The Valley Of Dry Bones’ for more information about this second resurrection of all who have ever lived.)
Thus, the seven feasts of the Lord are "a shadow of things to come," and Jesus Christ is at the center of all of them. This is why these holy feasts are still to be observed, reminding us of the central role Jesus Christ has in carrying out in the plan of God for the salvation of humanity.
The Good News Magazine