“What are the different Jewish festivals in the Bible?”There are seven Jewish festivals or feasts outlined in the Bible. While they are mentioned throughout Scripture we find instructions for all seven laid out in Leviticus 23:2 refers to the seven Jewish festivals, literally "appointed times," also called "holy convocations." These were days appointed and ordained by God to be kept to the honor of His name. These times of celebration are important not only to Israel, but also to the overall message of the Bible, because each one foreshadows or symbolizes an aspect of the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.The book of Leviticus contains God's instructions to His chosen nation Israel on how they were to worship Him. It contains detailed instructions about the duties of the priests as well as instructions on observing and obeying God's law and the sacrificial system. God designated seven specific feasts that Israel was to celebrate each year. Each one of these festivals is significant both in regards to the Lord's provision for His people but even more importantly in the spiritual significance as they foreshadowed the coming Messiah and His work in redeeming people from every tribe, tongue and nation. While Christians are no longer under any obligation to observe any of the Old Testament feasts
(Colossians 2:16), we should understand their significance and importance nonetheless.The feasts often began and ended with a "Sabbath rest" where the Jews were commanded to not do any customary work on those days. Both the normal weekly Sabbath and the special Sabbaths that were to be observed as part of the Jewish Feasts point us to the ultimate Sabbath rest( see the article at the end about our Sabbath rest) which is found only in Jesus Christ. It is a rest that Christians experience through faith in the finished work of Christ upon the cross.Beginning in the spring, the seven Jewish feasts are: Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of Firstfruits, Feast of Weeks, Feast of Trumpets, The Day of Atonement and The Feast of Tabernacles. The Jewish feasts are closely related to Israel's spring and fall harvests and agricultural seasons. They were to remind the Israelites each year of God's ongoing protection and provision. But even more importantly they foreshadowed the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Not only did they play significant roles in Christ's earthly ministry but they also symbolize the complete redemptive story of Christ, beginning with His death on the cross as the Passover Lamb and ending with His second coming after which He will "tabernacle" or dwell with His people forever.Here is a brief summary of the spiritual significance of each of the seven Jewish festivals or feasts. It is interesting to note that the first three occur back to back, almost simultaneously. The Feast of Unleavened Bread starts the very day after Passover is celebrated. Then on the second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Firstfruits begins. Passover reminds us of redemption from sin. It was the time when Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, was offered as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. It is on that basis alone that God can justify the ungodly sinner. Just as the blood of a lamb sprinkled on the doorpost of Jewish homes caused the spirit of the Lord to pass over those homes during the last plague on Egypt (Exodus 12), so those covered by the blood of the Lamb will escape the spiritual death and judgment God will visit upon all who reject Him. Of all the festivals, Passover is of the greatest importance because the Lord's Supper was a Passover meal (Maththew 26 :17-27). In passing the elements and telling the disciples to eat of His body, Jesus was presenting Himself as the ultimate Passover Lamb.The Feast of Unleavened Bread followed immediately after Passover and lasted one week, during which time the Israelites ate no bread with yeast in remembrance of their haste in preparing for their exodus from Egypt. In the New Testament, yeast is often associated with evil (1 Corinthians 5:6-8Galatians 5:9) and just as Israel was to remove yeast from their bread, so are Christians to purge evil from their lives and live a new life in godliness and righteousness. Christ as our Passover Lamb cleanses us from sin and evil, and by His power and that of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are freed from sin to leave our old lives behind, just as the Israelites did.The Feast of Firstfruits took place at the beginning of the harvest and signified Israel's gratitude to and dependence upon God. According to Leviticus 23:9-14, an Israelite would bring a sheaf of the first grain of the harvest to the priest, who would wave it before the Lord as an offering. Deuteronomy 26:1-11 states that when the Israelites brought the firstfuits of their harvest before the priest, they were to acknowledge that God had delivered them from Egypt and had given them the Promised Land. This reminds us of Christ's resurrection as He was the "firstfuits of those who have fallen asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:20). Just as Christ was the first to rise from the dead and receive a glorified body, so shall all those who are born again also follow Him, being resurrected to inherit an "incorruptible body" (1 Corinthians 15:35-49).The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) occurred 50 days (the Greek word "Pentecost" means fiftieth) after the Firstfruits festival and celebrated the end of the grain harvest. The primary focus of the festival was gratitude to God for the harvest. This feast reminds us of the fulfillment of Jesus' promise to send "another helper" (John 14:16) who would indwell believers and empower them for ministry. The coming of the Holy Spirit 50 days after Jesus' resurrection was the guarantee (Ephesians1:13-14) that the promise of salvation and future resurrection will come to pass. The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in every born-again believer is what seals us in Christ and bears witness with our spirit that we are indeed "joint heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:16-17).After the spring feasts conclude with the Feast of Weeks, there is a period of time before the Fall Feasts begin. This time is spiritually symbolic of the church age in which we live today. Christ's sacrifice and resurrection are past, we have received the promised Holy Spirit, and now we await His second coming. Just as the Spring Feasts pointed towards the Messiah's ministry at His first coming, the Fall Feasts point toward what will happen at His second coming.The Feast of Trumpets was commanded to be held on the first day of the seventh month and was to be a "day of trumpet blast" (Numbers 29:1) to commemorate the end of the agricultural and festival year. The trumpet blasts were meant to signal to Israel that they were entering a sacred season. The agricultural year was coming to a close; there was to be a reckoning with the sins of the people on the Day of Atonement. The Feast of Trumpets signifies Christ's second coming. We see trumpets associated with the second coming in verses like 1 Thessalonians 4:16, "For 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." Of course the sounding of the trumpet also indicates the pouring out of God's wrath on the earth as well. Certainly this feast points towards the coming Day of the Lord.The Day of Atonement occurs just ten days after the Feast of Trumpets. The Day of Atonement was the day the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies each year to make an offering for the sins of Israel. This feast is symbolic of the time when God will again turn His attention back to the nation of Israel after "├ö├ç┬¬the fullness of the Gentiles has come in├ö├ç┬¬all Israel will be saved" (Romans 11:25-26). The Jewish remnant who survive the Great Tribulation will recognize Jesus as their Messiah as God releases them from their spiritual blindness and they come to faith in Christ.The Feast of Tabernacles (Booths) is the seventh and final feast of the Lord and took place five days after the Day of Atonement. For seven days, the Israelites presented offerings to the Lord, during which time they lived in huts made from palm branches. Living in the booths recalled the sojourn of the Israelites prior to their taking the land of Canaan (Leviticus 23:43). This feast signifies the future time when Christ rules and reigns on earth. For the rest of eternity people from every tribe, tongue and nation will "tabernacle" or dwell with Christ in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:9-27). While the four spring feasts look back at what Christ accomplished at His first coming, the three fall feasts point us toward the glory of His second coming. The first is the source of our hope in Christ-His finished work of atonement for sins-and the second is the promise of what is to come-eternity with Christ. Understanding the significance of these God-appointed times helps us to better see and understand the complete picture and plan of redemption found in Scripture.
“How is Jesus our Sabbath Rest?”The key to understanding how Jesus is our Sabbath rest is the Hebrew word sabat, which means "to rest or stop or cease from work." The origin of the Sabbath goes back to Creation. After creating the heavens and the earth in six days, God "rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made" (Genesis 2:2). This doesn't mean that God was tired and needed a rest. We know that God is omnipotent, literally "all-powerful." He has all the power in the universe, He never tires, and His most arduous expenditure of energy does not diminish His power one bit. So, what does it mean that God rested on the seventh day? Simply that He stopped what He was doing. He ceased from His labors. This is important in understanding the establishment of the Sabbath day and the role of Christ as our Sabbath rest.God used the example of His resting on the seventh day of Creation to establish the principle of the Sabbath day rest for His people. In Exodus 20:8-11 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15, God gave the Israelites the fourth of His Ten Commandments. They were to "remember" the Sabbath day and "keep it holy." One day out of every seven, they were to rest from their labors and give the same day of rest to their servants and animals. This was not just a physical rest, but a cessation of laboring. Whatever work they were engaged in was to stop for a full day each week. (If you need to know more about the Sabbath day, Saturday vs. Sunday and Sabbath keeping, let me know and then we can explore it further.) The Sabbath day was established so the people would rest from their labors, only to begin again after a one-day rest.The various elements of the Sabbath symbolized the coming of the Messiah, who would provide a permanent rest for His people. Once again the example of resting from our labors comes into play. With the establishment of the Old Testament Law, the Jews were constantly "laboring" to make themselves acceptable to God. Their labors included trying to obey a myriad of do's and don'ts of the ceremonial law, the Temple law, the civil law, etc. Of course they couldn't possibly keep all those laws, so God provided an array of sin offerings and sacrifices so they could come to Him for forgiveness and restore fellowship with Him, but only temporarily. Just as they began their physical labors after a one-day rest, so, too, did they have to continue to offer sacrifices. Hebrews 10:1 tells us that the law "can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship." But these sacrifices were offered in anticipation of the ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the cross, who "after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right of God" (Hebrews 10:12). Just as He rested after performing the ultimate sacrifice, He sat down and rested-ceased from His labor of atonement because there was nothing more to be done, ever. Because of what He did, we no longer have to "labor" in law-keeping in order to be justified in the sight of God. Jesus was sent so that we might rest in God and in what He has provided. Another element of the Sabbath day rest which God instituted as a foreshadowing of our complete rest in Christ is that He blessed it, sanctified it, and made it holy. Here again we see the symbol of Christ as our Sabbath rest-the holy, perfect Son of God who sanctifies and makes holy all who believe in Him. God sanctified Christ, just as He sanctified the Sabbath day, and sent Him into the world ( John 10:36) to be our sacrifice for sin. In Him we find complete rest from the labors of our self-effort, because He alone is holy and righteous. "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). We can now cease from our spiritual labors and rest in Him, not just one day a week, but always. Jesus can be our Sabbath rest in part because He is "Lord of the Sabbath"
( Matthew 12:8). As God incarnate, He decides the true meaning of the Sabbath because He created it, and He is our Sabbath rest in the flesh. When the Pharisees criticized Him for healing on the Sabbath, Jesus reminded them that even they, sinful as they were, would not hesitate to pull a sheep out of a pit on the Sabbath. Because He came to seek and save His sheep who would hear His voice (John 10:3,27) and enter into the Sabbath rest He provided by paying for their sins, He could break the Sabbath rules. He told the Pharisees that people are more important than sheep and the salvation He provided was more important than rules. By saying, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" ( Mark 2:27), Jesus was restating the principle that the Sabbath rest was instituted to relieve man of his labors, just as He came to relieve us of our attempting to achieve salvation by our works. We no longer rest for only one day, but forever cease our laboring to attain God's favor. Jesus is our rest from works now, just as He is the door to heaven, where we will rest in Him forever.Hebrews 4 is the definitive passage regarding Jesus as our Sabbath rest. The writer to the Hebrews exhorts his readers to "enter in" to the Sabbath rest provided by Christ. After three chapters of telling them that Jesus is superior to the angels and that He is our Apostle and High Priest, he pleads with them to not harden their hearts against Him, as their fathers hardened their hearts against Jehovah in the wilderness. Because of their unbelief, God denied that generation access to the holy land, saying, "They shall not enter into My rest"
(Hebrews 3:11). In the same way, the writer to the Hebrews begs them-and us-not to make the same mistake by rejecting God's Sabbath rest in Jesus Christ. "There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience" (Hebrews 4:9-11). There is no other Sabbath rest besides Jesus. He alone satisfies the requirements of the Law, and He alone provides the sacrifice that atones for sin. He is God's plan for us to cease from the labor of our own works. We dare not reject this one-and-only Way of salvation (John 14:6). God's reaction to those who choose to reject His plan is seen in Numbers 15. A man was found gathering sticks on the Sabbath day, in spite of God's plain commandment to cease from all labor on the Sabbath. This transgression was a known and willful sin, done with unblushing boldness in broad daylight, in open defiance of the divine authority. "And Jehovah said to Moses, 'The man shall surely be put to death'" (v. 35). So it will be to all who reject God's provision for our Sabbath rest in Christ. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" (Hebrews 2:3).