Let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or
in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day things which are a
mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ."
Colossians 2:16-17 (NASB)
This statement by the Apostle Paul refers to the Jewish
Feasts as a "mere shadow" of things to come, the substance of them being found
in Yeshua, the Messiah. What Paul is saying here is that the feasts were
prophetic types, or symbols, that pointed to the Messiah and which would be
fulfilled in Him. (NASB)
Before we pursue that point to see how the feasts were
fulfilled in Jesus, let's first of all familiarize ourselves with the feasts.
Origin and Timing of the Feasts
The feasts were a part of the Mosaic Law that was given to
the Children of Israel by God through Moses (Exodus 12; 23:14-17; Leviticus 23;
Numbers 28 & 29; and Deuteronomy 16). The Jewish nation was commanded by God to
celebrate seven feasts over a seven month period of time, beginning in the
spring of the year and continuing through the fall. (NASB) You will find the
timing and sequence of these feasts illustrated on the chart below.
As you study the chart, notice that the feasts fall into
three clusters. The first three feasts Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First
Fruits occur in rapid succession in the spring of the year over a period of
eight days. They came to be referred to collectively as "Passover."
The fourth feast, Harvest, occurs fifty days later at the
beginning of the summer. By New Testament times this feast had come to be known
by its Greek name, Pentecost, a word meaning fifty.
The last three feasts Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles
extend over a period of twenty-one days in the fall of the year. They came to be
known collectively as "Tabernacles."
The Nature of the Feasts
Some of the feasts were related primarily to the agricultural
cycle. The feast of First Fruits was a time for the presentation to God of the
first fruits of the barley harvest. The feast of Harvest was a celebration of
the wheat harvest. And the feast of Tabernacles was in part a time of
thanksgiving for the harvest of olives, dates, and figs.
Most of the feasts were related to past historical events.
Passover, of course, celebrated the salvation the Jews experienced when the
angel of death passed over the Jewish houses that were marked with the blood of
a lamb. Unleavened Bread was a reminder of the swift departure from Egypt so
swift that they had no time to put leaven into their bread.
Although the feasts of Harvest and Tabernacles were related
to the agricultural cycle, they both had historical significance as well. The
Jews believed that it was on the feast day of Harvest that God gave the Law to
Moses on Mt. Sinai. And Tabernacles was a yearly reminder of God's protective
care as the Children of Israel tabernacled in the wilderness for forty years.
The Spiritual Significance of the Feasts
All the feasts were related to the spiritual life of the
people. Passover served as a reminder that there is no atonement for sin apart
from the shedding of blood. Unleavened Bread was a reminder of God's call on
their lives to be a people set apart to holiness. Leaven was a symbol of sin.
They were to be unleavened that is, holy before the nations as a witness of God.
The feast of First Fruits was a call to consider their priorities, to make
certain they were putting God first in their lives. Harvest was a reminder that
God is the source of all blessings. The solemn assembly day of Trumpets was a
reminder of the need for constant, ongoing repentance. The Day of Atonement was
also a solemn assembly day a day of rest and introspection. It was a reminder of
God's promise to send a Messiah whose blood would cover the demands of the Law
with the mercy of God. In sharp contrast to Trumpets and Atonement, Tabernacles
was a joyous celebration of God's faithfulness, even when the Children of Israel
The Prophetic Significance of the Feasts
What the Jewish people did not seem to realize is that all of
the feasts were also symbolic types. In other words, they were prophetic in
nature, each one pointing in a unique way to some aspect of the life and work of
the promised Messiah.
1) Passover - Pointed to the Messiah as our Passover lamb
whose blood would be shed for our sins. Jesus was crucified on the day of
preparation for the Passover, at the same time that the lambs were being
slaughtered for the Passover meal that evening.
2) Unleavened Bread - Pointed to the Messiah's sinless
life, making Him the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Jesus' body was in the
grave during the first days of this feast, like a kernel of wheat planted and
waiting to burst forth as the bread of life.
3) First Fruits - Pointed to the Messiah's resurrection
as the first fruits of the righteous. Jesus was resurrected on this very day,
which is one of the reasons that Paul refers to him in I Corinthians 15:20 as
the "first fruits from the dead."
4) Harvest or Pentecost - (Called Shavuot today.) Pointed
to the great harvest of souls, both Jew and Gentile, that would come into the
kingdom of God during the Church Age. The Church was actually established on
this day when the Messiah poured out the Holy Spirit and 3,000 souls responded
to Peter's first proclamation of the Gospel.
The long interval of three months between Harvest and
Trumpets pointed to the current Church Age, a period of time that was kept as a
mystery to the Hebrew prophets in Old Testament times.
That leaves us with the three fall feasts which are yet to be
fulfilled in the life and work of the Messiah. Because Jesus literally fulfilled
the first four feasts and did so on the actual feast days, I think it is safe to
assume that the last three will also be fulfilled and that their fulfillment
will occur on the actual feast days. We cannot be certain how they will be
fulfilled, but my guess is that they most likely have the following prophetic
5) Trumpets - (Called Rosh Hashana today.) Points to the
Rapture when the Messiah will appear in the heavens as a Bridegroom coming for
His bride, the Church. The Rapture is always associated in Scripture with the
blowing of a loud trumpet (I Thessalonians 4:13-18 and I Corinthians 15:52)
6) Atonement - (Called Yom Kippur today.) Points to the
day of the Second Coming of Jesus when He will return to earth. That will be the
day of atonement for the Jewish remnant when they "look upon Him whom they have
pierced," repent of their sins, and receive Him as their Messiah (Zechariah
12:10 and Romans 11:1-6, 25-36).
7) Tabernacles - (Called Sukkot today.) Points to the
Lord's promise that He will once again tabernacle with His people when He
returns to reign over all the world from Jerusalem (Micah 4:1-7).
The Week of Millenniums
One final note about the feasts. Six of them the first six
are related to man's sin and struggle to exist. The last feast, Tabernacles, is
related to rest. It is the most joyous feast of the year. It looks to the past
in celebration of God's faithfulness in the wilderness. It looks to the present
in celebration of the completion of the hard labor of the agricultural cycle.
And it looks to the future in celebration of God's promise to return to this
earth and provide the world with rest in the form of peace, righteousness and
The seven feasts thus parallel what I call the "rhythm of
God" that was established during the week of creation namely, six days of work
followed by one day of rest. This rhythm is repeated over and over in the
Scriptures, as illustrated in the chart below.
A Summary of the Weeks of Scripture