Israel’s Feasts: Foreshadows of Redemption
Vol: 156 Issue: 24 Wednesday, September 24, 2014
It is easy to see why secularists — and even many Christians — have a hard time getting their heads around the idea of what is called the Rapture of the Church. When you take a step back and look at it, it does sound a little, er, weird.
Describe it without using Bible terms and see how it sounds: People will suddenly disappear without warning, and will be transported — alive — into the air, and from there, it’s off to heaven.
What people? Only the ones that believe. . . if you aren’t a believer, you will be left behind. If you aren’t a believer, how does that sound to you? A little nuts, right?
Some years ago, I appeared on a National Geographic program called, “Doomsday: The Book of Revelation” that pitted “believers” against “experts” over how literally one should take doctrines like the Rapture, the Tribulation and Bible prophecy in general.
“Fundamentalists who believe in the apocalypse call it the Rapture,” the narrator intoned. Nat Geo played the whole thing strictly for laughs, I thought, taking the Rapture about as seriously as it does Nostradamus.
Is the Rapture doctrine something made up by believers? Or is it a legitimate part of the whole endtimes’ scenario? How far back can we trace it? Is there evidence that God had it planned from the start?
Or is it, as the skeptics say, a recently-invented doctrine from the early 19th century?
In the Book of Leviticus, God issued instructions to His chosen people, the children of Israel, concerning how they were to worship Him. Leviticus gives instructions regarding the priesthood, the Law and the system of sacrifices. God also issued instructions for seven designated feasts that Israel was to celebrate each year.
Each of the feasts is significant both to Israel and to the Church in that both highlight God’s provision for His people. Both His provision for the needs of His Chosen People and His provision for mankind by the coming of the Messiah and His redemptive Work on the Cross.
The seven Levitical feasts played significant roles in the Lord’s earthly ministry and are symbolic of the whole redemptive story, from His death as the Passover Lamb to His Second coming when He will “tabernacle” (or dwell) with His people forever.
The first three feasts take place almost back-to-back, just as do the events that they symbolize. Passover recalls the day the Lord visited judgment on all those that rejected Him, passing over those whose homes were sprinkled with the blood of a lamb.
Jesus was God’s Passover Lamb offered as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Jesus died on the Cross and His Body was placed in the grave.
The Feast of Passover is followed the very next day by the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Feast of Unleavened Bread lasts one week, and it recalls Israel’s hasty escape from Egypt, (symbolic of the world) during which time there was no time to let bread rise. They ate it without yeast.
The Feast of the Unleavened bread symbolizes when Christ descended into Paradise (with the thief), where He led the righteous dead out of their captivity in Abraham’s bosom and into the presence of God.
The second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is the Feast of Firstfruits. Jesus is the first-fruits of the Redemption Who conquered death and Hell and rose from the grave on the third Day after Passover.
Fifty days after the Feast of Firstfruits is the Feast of Pentecost. The Feast of Pentecost celebrated the end of the grain harvest. Pentecost was also the day that Jesus ascended into Heaven, ending His earthly ministry, but not before promising to send another Helper, the Holy Spirit.
The arrival of the Holy Spirit is a reminder that the promise of salvation and future resurrection is as sure as the harvest and His indwelling empowers believers for ministry to bring in the harvest until He returns.
The Book of Acts records Jesus’ ascension into heaven at Pentecost, saying He rose into the air and was received into the clouds.
“And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)
Pentecost concludes the spring-time feasts for Israel just as it concluded the Lord’s earthly ministry for the Church. After Pentecost, there is a period of time before the Fall Feasts begin. This is symbolic of the Church Age — the Lord has fulfilled the first four feasts of Leviticus to the letter.
To recap, the first three Feasts symbolized His death, His time in the grave and His Resurrection. His sacrifice and Resurrection are past, we have received His Holy Spirit and now we await His Return.
The first three symbolized the major redemptive events of His First Advent — the remaining four tell the story of His Second Coming.
The Feast of the Trumpets is next on the calendar and it celebrates the waning of the agricultural year. The growing season is over and the harvest is in the barns. The Feast of the Trumpets, or Rosh Hashanah, marks the start of ten days of repentance, or “Ten Days of Awe.”
There are many that believe Rosh Hashanah symbolizes the “Fullness of the Gentiles” and that the Rapture will occur at some time during this ten-day period. How important is that?
If there is no pre-Trib Rapture, then the Feast of the Trumpets has no symbolic counterpart and the whole dual fulfillment interpretation falls apart.
Recall Jesus’ admonition was that “no man would know the day or the hour,” but we COULD know when it was “near, even at the doors.”
A ten-day window out of one generation, somewhere in time, does no violence to the traditional understanding of either of these relevant Scriptures.
And it fits perfectly with Paul’s description of the event in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.
“For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
The Day of Atonement was the day the High Priest would make an offering for the sins of all Israel. It symbolizes when God will turn His attention away from the Gentiles and back to Israel.
“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” (Romans 11:25)
Finally, Sukkot, the seventh feast day on God’s calendar takes place five days after the Day of Atonement. It is the Feast of Booths, or Tabernacles and lasts for seven days. It recalls the time the Israelites lived in huts made from palm branches prior to entering the Land of Canaan.
It also foreshadows entry into the Millennial Kingdom where Christ will rule from Jerusalem and people from every kindred, tongue and nation will be able to “tabernacle” or dwell in His presence.
Israel is back in the Land of Promise. The fullness of the Gentiles is almost complete. The Lord is coming back to reap His Harvest and we can almost hear the trumpet.
What a time to be alive! Maranatha!
Featured Commentary: For Such a Time as This ~ Lea Sylvester