REMEMBERING OUR CREATOR AND RESTING IN GOD’S GRACE
“Six days shall work be done, but the Seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation.” (Lev. 23: 3)
In a world of unbelief and atheism, the Sabbath reminds us that God is our Creator and the Maker of the Heavens and earth. “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” (Genesis 2: 1-3) As the scriptures tell us, the Sabbath was instituted by God. It was God who blessed the seventh day, and it was God who made it holy. Interestingly, the Sabbath day was also Adam and Eve’s first full day of life.
Many years later, God incorporated the Sabbath into the Ten Commandments. The fourth commandment did not establish the Sabbath as a new institution. On the contrary, it reminded Israel to observe the Sabbath day as an old institution which God had ordained from the beginning. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” (Exodus 20: 8-11)
Speaking of Jesus, John tells us that “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. (John 1: 3) The Sabbath points to Jesus Christ. After all, God made all things through Him. He is the One who said, “Let there be light, and there was light.” He is the One who created Adam and Eve and breathed into them the breath of life. He is the One who blessed the Seventh Day and made it holy. Therefore, this day was originally ordained by Jesus Christ who made all things.
The Sabbath also teaches us about sanctification. “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you.’” (Exodus 31: 13-14) This scripture tells us that the Sabbath was actually intended to remind the Israelites that it was God who sanctified them just as He sanctifies us! In other words, the Sabbath points to God’s grace which is freely given to all who believe in Jesus Christ. No wonder that the Sabbath is a sign between God and His people.
On the Sabbath day, we cease from our labors to spend time with God. In doing so, we learn another important lesson. Only God can give us true spiritual rest. “For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4: 8-11)
The Sabbath was also celebrated by both Jews and Gentiles in the New Testament church. For example, when Paul and Barnabas were in Antioch of Pisidia, they went into the synagogue on the Sabbath and preached that Jesus was the Christ. When the Gentiles heard the message, they were overjoyed beyond words! So, what did they do? Notice what Luke tell us: “So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath.” (Acts 13: 42) This is an interesting verse. Apparently, it did not even occur to the Gentiles to ask Paul to speak on any other day than the Sabbath. So, how did Paul respond to their request? Did he tell them that the Sabbath was nailed to the cross? Did he tell them that it was done away with? What did he do? “Now, when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God.” (Acts 13: 43-44) This scripture makes it clear that Paul went right back into the same synagogue on the next Sabbath and preached the same message. It is also obvious from these scriptures, and from many others, that no one even considered meeting on a different day.
The Sabbath day has existed from Creation, long before Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, the Israelites, or the Old Covenant. And it exists today! The Sabbath was the day of worship for Jesus Christ, the apostles, and New Testament Church. It is truly the Lord’s Day of the bible! As Jesus said, “the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12: 8). Come and worship with us this Sabbath!
“Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the scriptures. (Acts 17: 2)
REMEMBERING OUR LORD’S DEATH
“On the fourteen day of the month at twilight is the Lord’s Passover.” (Leviticus 23: 5)
It was the evening of the fourteenth of Nisan, and Jesus had just sat down for a final meal with his disciples. (We must remember that a day begins and ends at sunset in the bible.) Now, this was an important day. It was the day that the Passover lambs were to be sacrificed beginning at about 3:00PM in the late afternoon. “On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the LORD’s Passover.” (Leviticus 23: 7) But this particular Nisan 14 was unlike any that came before it or any that would follow. For on this day, Jesus Christ, the true Passover Lamb who came into the world to take away our sins, would be sacrificed. As Jesus sat at the table with his disciples, He knew his time had come. It was for this hour and this day that He was born. So, taking bread, Jesus blessed it, broke it, and gave it to his disciples saying, “‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.’” (Matthew 26: 26-29) It is not insignificant that Jesus established this new covenant service on the evening of the very day that He would be sacrificed.
After the meal, Jesus led his disciples to the Mount of Olives to a place called Gethsemane. As he made his way through the garden, His heart became heavy with sorrow for He understood all too well the trial and suffering that lay ahead of him. He was the Messiah, the Son of God, and the Savior of the world. The sins of mankind would be placed upon His shoulders, and the punishment that should have been ours would be laid upon Him. He was our only hope and without His sacrifice, we would all be lost. Falling upon His face, Jesus cried out three times: “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Jesus was in mental agony. As his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground, an angel appeared to Him from heaven and strengthened Him. Finally after much prayer, Jesus knew what He needed to do. He was the true Passover Lamb, and it was for this reason that He was born to suffer and die for our sins. He would drink the cup that was prepared for Him because there was no other way.
We know all too well what followed… Jesus was betrayed by one of His own disciples and abandoned by the others. He was arrested and condemned in an unlawful and corrupt trial. He was beaten, scourged and mocked, and finally crucified. Then, at about 3:00PM in the afternoon when the Passover lambs began to be sacrificed, Jesus died. At last His suffering was over, and at last His work was finished. “But He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53: 5)
The Lord’s Supper, or New Covenant Passover as it is also called, commemorates the death and suffering of our Lord and Savior. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” (I Corinthians 11: 26) In participating in this service, we remember all that Jesus endured so that we might have life! Therefore, we host this service in the evening of Nisan 14 at the very time that Jesus instituted it and on the day that He was crucified. In doing so, we remember the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our Passover Lamb!
“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” (I Corinthians 11: 23-25)
Feast of Unleavened Bread
DELIVERANCE FROM SIN AND A NEW LIFE IN CHRIST
“And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; seven days you must eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation… The seventh day shall be a holy convocation…” (Leviticus 23: 6-8)
The Feast of Unleavened Bread is closely connected with the Passover. In the original Passover in Egypt, God commanded the Israelites to select a lamb on the tenth day of Nisan. (Nisan is the first month of the Jewish calendar and occurs in the Spring.) They were to keep this lamb until the fourteenth day of the month and sacrifice it late in the afternoon just before evening. After sacrificing it, they took some of the lamb’s blood and placed it on the doorposts and lintels of their home. They did all of this in accordance with God’s word.
That evening, the Passover Lamb was roasted over a fire and eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. As they ate their Passover meals, they were not to recline, relax, or leisurely dine. Rather, they were to eat it with their belts on their waists, sandals on their feet, and staffs in their hands. They were to eat it quickly because it was the Lord’s Passover. That night, God would walk through the land of Egypt and execute judgment. All of the firstborn of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh to the firstborn of the lowliest servant in Egypt would die. Not even the firstborn of the animals would be spared. But when God saw the blood on the doors of the Israelites, He would pass over them. It is important to note that God did not pass over the Israelites just because they were sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God passed over them because He saw the blood of the Passover Lamb on the doorposts and lintels to their home!
God never wanted the Israelites to forget this day! “Remember this day in which you went out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out of this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten.” (Exodus 13: 3) And so, God commanded Israel to celebrate a seven day festival called the Days of Unleavened Bread, from Nisan 15 to Nisan 21. The first and seventh days were holy convocations. During this festival, all leavening was removed from their homes and only unleavened bread could be eaten. While leavening represented the sin and corruption of Egypt, unleavened bread symbolized the holiness of their new lives as God’s people. And so, God commanded Israel to eat only unleavened bread during this festival in to celebrate all that God did for them when be delivered them from the hand of Pharaoh and brought them out of Egypt. “And you shall tell your son in that day, saying, ‘This is done because of what the LORD did for me when I came up from Egypt.’ It shall be as a sign to you on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the Lord’s law may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand the LORD has brought you out of Egypt.” (Exodus 13: 7-9)
The Days of Unleavened Bread are also rich in Christian meaning. John the Baptist called Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”! Peter referred to Jesus as a “lamb without blemish and without spot”. In the book of Revelation, Jesus is referred to as a lamb that had been slain. Finally, Paul says this in I Corinthians 5: 7: “For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.” Clearly, this festival looked forward to the coming of the true Passover Lamb who would be sacrificed for the sins of the world. We are “passed over” because He died in our place. It is no coincidence that Jesus was crucified on the very day that the Passover Lambs were sacrificed. In fact, as the sacrifice of the Passover Lambs began in the temple at about 3:00PM in the afternoon, Jesus said, “It is finished”. He then bowed His head and died.
Now, many suppose that Jesus died on a Friday afternoon. This belief is based in part on scriptures that records the anxiety of the Jewish authorities who wanted the legs of those crucified broken so that their “bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath”. However, we should remember that the next day, which began at sunset, was the first day of the Days of Unleavened Bread which was a “high” day. As such, it was considered a Sabbath! John makes this point very clear. “Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.” (John 19: 31)
For Christians the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread point to everything that is important to our faith. They teach us that Jesus Christ is our Passover Lamb, that He died for us, and that we are saved from death through faith in His shed blood. They teach us about our deliverance from the bondage of sin and God’s grace, forgiveness, and love. The Days of Unleavened Bread are truly a Christian festival. Apparently, the Apostle Paul thought so when he gave the Corinthian church the following instructions: “Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, 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, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (I Corinthians 5: 6-8)
In celebrating the Days of Unleavened Bread, we remove leavening from our homes and eat unleavened bread. In doing this, we remember that the old, sinful “unleavened” self has been buried with Christ, so that the life of Jesus may live in us. As such, we are truly unleavened as we walk in obedience to God, growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior. After all, Jesus is the true unleavened bread who came from Heaven to give life to the world. “And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.’” (John 6: 35)
“Therefore, purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you are truly unleavened. For indeed, Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us. Therefore, let us keep the feast… with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (I Corinthians 5: 7-8)
FIRSTFRUITS OF GOD’S HARVEST
“And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you.” (Leviticus 23: 15-16, 21)
The Day of Pentecost is called by several names in the bible. In the Old Testament it is called the Feasts of Harvests and the Feast of Weeks. In the New Testament it is called the Day of Pentecost. Unlike the other festival days, the Day of Pentecost is not dated to any specific day of the month. Rather, it is celebrated fifty-days after the presentation of a unique offering called the Sheaf of Firstfruits or Wave Sheaf Offering. According to Leviticus 23, this offering was presented by the High Priest on the first day of the week (Sunday) during the Days of Unleavened Bread. “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.” (Leviticus 23: 10-11) It should be noted that none of the new grain from the spring harvest could be eaten until this important offering was made. In fact, it can be said that the spring harvest season did not even begin until this special offering was made.
Exactly fifty days from the presentation of this Sheaf of Firstfruits, another special offering was made. This second offering, called the Offering of Firstfruits, was presented at the end of the springtime harvest on the Day of Pentecost. This Offering of Firstfruits consisted of two loaves of leavened bread and was also waved before God by the priest. “You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the LORD.” (Leviticus 23: 17)
What is the meaning of these two special offerings? Clearly, they are closely associated with the spring-time harvests. And as we shall see, both of these offerings and their associated ceremonies are rich in Christian symbolism.
First of all, the Sheaf of First fruits clearly points to Jesus Christ. “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (I Corinthians 15: 20, 23) After spending three days and three nights in the grave, God raised Jesus from the dead. But here is where it gets interesting.
After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene early on the first day of the week. Full of joy, Mary cries out, “Rabboni”, and reaches for Him. But strangely, Jesus does not allow her to hold onto Him. Instead, Jesus tells her: “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’” (John 20: 17) What is going on here? The answer is simple. This event occurred on the day that the Sheaf of Firstfruits was offered during the Days of Unleavened Bread. Although Jesus had been resurrected, He had not yet ascended to the Father. Still early in the morning, Jesus seems to have been waiting for the appropriate time to ascend into Heaven itself and present His sacrifice to God as the true Sheaf of First Fruits!
There is one other interesting point worth noting. Although most English translations of the bible call this particular day “the first day of the week”, this day is actually called the “first of the Sabbaths” in the original Greek. The six references to the “first day of the week” in the gospels are actually references to the day that the Sheaf of Firstfruits was offered. Therefore, these scriptures are referring to a specific day of the year, not just a day of the week!
The fifty-day count to the Day of Pentecost began on the day that the Sheaf of Firstfruits was offered. For the Israelites, this fifty-day period was a time of harvesting, first barley and then wheat. It is also a time of harvesting for the church. “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” (John 4: 35) Called the Feast of Harvests in the Old Testament, the Day of Pentecost is a harvest festival. It reminds us that we are laborers in God’s field bringing light to those who are in darkness, joy to those who are in despair, good news to those who have no hope, and salvation to those who are lost! We are to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, look after the sick, and visit the imprisoned. We are to make disciples of all nations, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28: 19-20) This is God’s time of harvesting. All who believe, repent, and accept Jesus as their Savior are firstfuits of God’s harvest!
Under the old covenant, an Offering of Firstfruits, consisting of two loaves of unleavened bread, were presented to God on the Day of Pentecost. Although Pentecost was celebrated at the end of the harvest season, it is interesting to note that only the firstfruits of the harvest were holy to God – not the entire harvest. And so we read in James 1: 18: “He chose to give us birth through the truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” In Revelation 14: 4 we also read: “These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.”
After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, He told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the promised gift of the holy spirit. While the disciples obeyed Jesus, they had no idea when the holy spirit would be given since Jesus didn’t tell them. But as they met together to celebrate the Day of Pentecost, God poured out his holy spirit on his disciples with power and great glory. Of all days, God chose the Day of Pentecost to fulfill his promise. In doing so, God established the importance of this holy day for Christians forever. Then, as a result of Peter’s preaching on that day, three thousand new believers were baptized. They were an “Offering of Firstfruits” to God.
The Day of Pentecost commemorates the harvest of God. It began when Jesus Christ, the “Sheaf of Firstfruits”, was resurrected as the firstborn from the dead. It will continue until He returns and the “firstfuits” are raised from the dead. In celebrating this feast day, we remember that we are laborers in God’s harvest as we rejoice in God’s work of redemption.
“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all gathered with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven… and they were all filled with the holy spirit.” (Acts 2: 1-2, 4)
Feast of Trumpets
THE RETURN OF JESUS CHRIST AND RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD
“In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a Sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing trumpets, a holy convocation.” (Leviticus 23: 24)
God’s festivals and holy days fall into three holy day seasons. In the spring or first festival season, the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread are celebrated. These festivals remind us of Jesus’ suffering and death as our Passover lamb, our deliverance from the bondage of sin and death, the newness and holiness of the Christian walk, and our hope in the resurrection of the dead because Jesus was resurrected! In the second holy day season, we celebrate the Day of Pentecost. This holy day commemorates God’s on-going work of redemption, the out-pouring of God’s holy spirit, and the birth of the church. The Day of Pentecost also reminds us that as laborers of Jesus Christ, we are tasked with making disciples of all nations. Finally, there is the fall holy season. During this festival season, we celebrate the Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, Feast of Tabernacles, and Last Great Day. This article will review the Feast of Trumpets.
The Feast of Trumpets initiates the fall festival season and is celebrated on the first day of the month of Tishri. Tishri is the seventh or sabbatical month of the Hebrew Calendar. In celebrating the Feast of Trumpets, God commanded the Israelites to commemorate this day by blowing loud trumpets throughout the land. “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation.’” (Leviticus 23: 23-24)
But what was the significance of blowing trumpets to this feast day? Trumpets served an important and symbolic role in the Old Testament. First of all, trumpets were blown to call God into remembrance of His promises to protect and deliver Israel. Interestingly, the blowing of trumpets seems to have been a means of getting God’s attention. “When you go into battle in your own land against an enemy who is oppressing you, sound a blast on the trumpets. Then you will be remembered by the Lord your God and rescued from your enemies.” (Numbers 10: 9) Secondly, trumpets were blown by the “watchmen” of Israel to warn their people of impending danger or war. If the watchmen failed to blow the trumpet as a warning, then the blood of their fellow kinsmen would be upon their shoulders. (Ezekiel 33: 1-9) As watchman for the people on behalf of God, the prophets were to warn the Israelites of their sin and transgression. “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins”. (Isaiah 58: 1)
The Feast of Trumpets also points to the Day of the Lord and the return of Jesus Christ! “Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound the alarm in my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the Day of the Lord is coming, for it is at hand.” (Joel 2: 1) The use of trumpets in the battle for the city of Jericho is worth noting as we consider the Day of the Lord and the Feast of Trumpets. In this battle, God commanded the Israelites to march once around the city for six consecutive days. As they marched around the city, seven priests blew seven trumpets. But on the seventh day, God commanded the Israelites to march around Jericho seven times while the seven priests blew their trumpets. Then, after circling the city for the seventh time, Joshua and the people shouted and the walls of Jericho fell. (Joshua 6) Jericho was the first city taken in the Promised Land. This battle with its unique ceremony pointed to the return of Jesus Christ and events yet to come!
In the book of Revelation, prophetic events leading up to the return of Jesus Christ unfold in a manner very similar to that of the battle of Jericho. In Revelation 8, seven angels are given seven trumpets. As each angel blows his trumpet, various plagues are poured out upon the earth. And with each trumpet blast, a disobedient and unbelieving world is called to repentance before Jesus’ second coming! Then, when the last trumpet finally sounds, Jesus returns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with 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 Feast of Trumpets points to one other great event – the resurrection of the dead! Notice what Paul says in I Thessalonians 4: 16-17: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds…” When Jesus returns, the dead in Christ are resurrected while those who are still alive are changed! In I Corinthians 15: 51-52, Paul explains that the resurrection of the dead occurs when the seventh and last trumpet is blown. “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.”
Now, notice what else the bible tells us regarding this resurrection in Revelation 20: 4-6: “And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 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.” Did you notice that? The resurrection of the dead associated with the return of Jesus Christ is only the first resurrection. Those who are in this first resurrection are called “blessed and holy”, and they reign with Christ for one thousand years. These are God’s firstfruits. (See article on Day of Pentecost.) Upon them, the second death has no power for they are given eternal life. Regarding the rest of the dead, they do not come to life again until after the thousand year reign of Jesus Christ. (See article on “Last Great Day”.)
The Feast of Trumpets commemorates the return of Jesus Christ and the first resurrection. These stupendous events occur when the seventh and final trumpet is blown. They are the hope of every Christian. So, come celebrate with us as we look forward to that great day!
“Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with 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)
Day of Atonement
OUR HIGH PRIEST AND HIS ATONING SACRIFICE
“Also the tenth day of this seventh shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you… to make atonement for you before the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 23: 27-28)
The Day of Atonement was a very important day to Israel. It was the only day that God commanded them to fast. For once a year on this very day, the High Priest entered the Most Holy Place to make atonement for the children of Israel because of their sins and transgressions. Details of this most important ceremony can be founding Leviticus 16. Now, the Day of Atonement is about grace, mercy, and forgiveness. As the Israelites watched the High Priest offer the required sacrifices of this day and perform its unique ceremonies, they were reminded that there was nothing that they could do to pay for their sins. They were forgiven because God is loving, merciful, and compassionate. And yet, as shall see, these sacrifices could not truly take away sin. Rather, they were a reminder of sin!
The ceremonies and sacrifices of the Day of Atonement were unique and meaningful. First, the high priest made atonement for himself and his family. In doing this, a bull was sacrificed as a sin offering. Then, the high priest made atonement for the people using two goats that were specially selected as a sin offering. One of the two goats was sacrificed, and one was used as a “scapegoat”. In performing the atonement ceremonies, the high priest sprinkled blood upon the mercy seat inside the Most Holy Place, the tabernacle, and the altar. But why sprinkle blood on these things. Didn’t the tabernacle, Most Holy Place, and altar belong to God? Weren’t they holy? The answer to both questions is “yes”! The problem was, they were located in the middle of the habitation of Israel and were defiled by “the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, for all their sins”. (Leviticus 16: 16) So, they had to be cleansed – ceremonially at least - if God was to continue dwelling among them. These ceremonies teach us an important lesson. Our sins affect our relationship with God. This was true then, and it is still true today. “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2)
To complete the Day of Atonement services, there was just one more ceremony to perform. The scapegoat was brought before the high priest. The High Priest placed his hands upon the head of the goat and confessed over it all the sins, iniquities, and transgressions of the Israelites. After completing this confession, the goat was taken into the wilderness by a specially selected person and released. Now, as meaningful as these sacrifices and ceremonies were, they were only a shadow of the good things yet to come.
“For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: ‘Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin, you had no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come. In the volume of the book it is written of Me to do Your will, O God.’” (Hebrews 10: 1-7)
After His crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus entered the Most Holy Place in Heaven where God dwells. As our High Priest, He offered his own blood as a sacrifice for our sins and made atonement for each of us. Although the high priest entered the Most Holy Place once each year under the Old Covenant to atone for the sins of the Israelites, Jesus entered Heaven once for all time as the mediator of the New Covenant.
“But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” (Hebrews 9: 11-15)
The Day of Atonement teaches us about the ministry performed by Jesus Christ as our High Priest. Sometimes, we tend to see our sins as one time events, here one moment and gone the next. But when we sin, there are always consequences! These consequences include separation from God, guilt, shame, fear, depression, hopelessness, despair, anxiety, lack of trust, broken lives, and emotional scares. So in forgiving us, God must also heal and restore us so that our consciences can be cleansed from the ravages of sin. Because Jesus is our High Priest, we can go before Him and find grace in our times of need. “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4: 14-16)
The Day of Atonement is also prophetic. Now, just as the Day of Atonement is celebrated after the Feast of Trumpets, so this day points to prophetic events that occur after the return of Jesus Christ. However, because the Day of Atonement precedes the Feast of Tabernacles which points to the millennial reign of Jesus, the Day of Atonement must then must point to a period of time immediately after the return of Jesus but before the start of his millennial reign. So what events could they be?
• Satan is Locked Away
When Jesus returns, one of the first things that He will do is lock Satan away. Satan is the spiritual ruler of the earth who has lead mankind into sin and rebellion against God. The peace and tranquility of Jesus’ one thousand year reign can never happen as long as Satan is allowed to influence and sway mankind. During the millennium, Jesus will be King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Satan will not be allowed to deceive the world again at least until the thousand years are over! “He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.” (Revelation 20: 1-3)
• A Time for Atonement
With Satan gone, Jesus is now King of all the earth! But before (or perhaps as) Jesus begins his millennial reign, there must be a time of restoration and atonement. The Day of Atonement seems to look forward to this day of restoration when an unbelieving world will finally turn to God as it accepts Jesus as their Savior, High Priest, and King. At this time, the scripture in Micah 4: 2 will be fulfilled. “Many nations shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion the law shall go forth, And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”
There is one other point that should be considered. In the Old Covenant, every fiftieth year was called the Year of Jubilee. (Leviticus 25) In the Jubilee Year, all debts were cancelled, property was returned to the poor, and slaves were set free. Interestingly, God commanded that the Year of Jubilee be announced on the Day of Atonement by blowing trumpets throughout the land. Because restoration, healing, forgiveness, and mercy are important themes of the Day of Atonement, announcing the Jubilee Year on this day makes a lot of sense.
As Christians, we can learn so much from the Day of Atonement. The Day of Atonement teaches us about sin and its affect upon our relationship with God. It teaches us that we have a High Priest who is the mediator of the New Covenant and who sits at the right hand of God. It also reminds that we can go before God when we are weak or sin and find strength and grace in our times of need. The Day of Atonement also foreshadows a day after the return of Jesus Christ when the world will finally turn to God as it accepts Jesus as their Savior, High Priest, and King.
“But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9: 11-12)
Feast of Tabernacles
THE MILLENNIAL REIGN OF JESUS CHRIST
“Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the LORD. On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it...” (Leviticus 23: 34-35)
The Feast of Tabernacles is a seven day festival. As Israel rejoiced before God in the Promised Land, the Feast of Tabernacles reminded them that they were once strangers and pilgrims as they wandered in the desert for forty years. During this time of wandering, they had no permanent home but lived in temporary shelters called booths or tabernacles. And yet, they were not forgotten because God cared for them and provided for them giving them manna from heaven and water from a rock. Their garments did not wear out, nor did their feet swell during all those years. God never wanted Israel to forget the lessons of this period of their history. And so He said: “You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 23: 42-43)
The lessons of the Feast of Tabernacles are as important to Christians as they were to Israel. “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” (I Corinthians 10: 11) The Feast of Tabernacles teaches us that we are strangers and pilgrims in this world as we look forward to our inheritance that is still beyond the Jordon River. It teaches us that life is temporary as long as we live in these fleshly bodies. And as the Israelites waited for the day when Joshua would lead them into the Promised Land, so we wait for the return of Jesus our Savior to lead us into the Promised Land of God’s eternal Kingdom!
As we consider the many lessons of the Feast of Tabernacles, we are reminded that our Lord once tabernacled on this earth with men. Jesus gave up all of the glory that was His at the right hand of God to become our Savior by suffering on the cross. John tells us: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt (tabernacled) among us.” (John 1: 14) Some actually believe that Jesus was born during the Feast of Tabernacles, a festival which seems to foreshadow His first coming.
The Feast of Tabernacles is also prophetic just like the other holy days. Celebrated after the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles looks beyond the immediate return of Jesus Christ. It points to the millennial reign of Jesus when the Kingdom of God will finally be established on this earth. According to Revelation 20: 4-6, those who belong to Jesus Christ come to life in the first resurrection and reign with Him for a thousand years.
In Exodus 23: 16 the Feast of Tabernacles is called the “Feast of Ingathering”. As such, it looks forward to that time when all of mankind will finally recognize Jesus Christ as Lord and King. “Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people. They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2: 3-4) Later on in Isaiah 11, Isaiah tells us that the wolf shall lie with the lamb, the leopard with the goat, the lion with the calf, and a little child shall lead them. These scriptures are truly Messianic and look forward to Jesus’ millennial reign. Referring to this same period of time, there is an interesting scripture in Zachariah 14: 16 that indicates that all nations will one day celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles: “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.” (Zachariah 14: 16)
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.” (Hebrews 11: 13-14)
“Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the Lord... On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation.” (Leviticus 23: 34, 36)
The Last Great Day is the closing assembly following the Feast of Tabernacles. It is a shadowy feast day for which little is said in the Old Testament. However, there are scriptures that give us some indications about its meaning. First, although closely connected with the Feast of Tabernacles, it is a separate and unique holy day with its own special meaning. For example, although the Israelites were commanded to dwell in booths during the Feast of Tabernacles, they were not required to do so on this Last Great Day. Secondly, the role of the eighth day in scripture seems to convey the idea of new beginnings or sanctification. For example, on the eighth day from birth, every male child was required to be circumcised as a sign of God’s covenant with Abraham. After a seven day ordination ceremony, Aaron began his service as high priest on the eighth day. Likewise, after a seven day cleansing period, an Israelite healed of leprosy (and some other bodily ailments) was officially declared “clean” on the eighth day.
The New Testament sheds additional light on the meaning of the Last Great Day. Notice what Jesus said on the Last Great Day of the feast in John 7: 37-39: “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.’” In his message, Jesus invites those who are thirsty to come to Him and drink of living water which is the holy spirit. We are also reminded of what Isaiah said: “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters.” (Isaiah 55: 1) So based on what Jesus said, the offering of the holy spirit to those who thirst is somehow connected with this Last Great Day. Because Jesus never did or said anything with out reason, we should consider the significance of Jesus’ teachings. We should also remember that the holy spirit was first poured out on the church on the Day of Pentecost. But here on the Last Great Day, Jesus is offering the holy spirit to all who thirst for God and come to Jesus. What does this mean?
The Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Feast of Tabernacles foreshadow the prophetic events of Revelation 20 from the return of Jesus Christ through his millennial reign. That said, it is reasonable to conclude that prophetic events associated with the Last Great should follow the millennial reign of Jesus Christ. And they do! Notice what John says in Revelation 20:4-6: “And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 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.”
According to the above scriptures, the dead in Christ are resurrected in the “first resurrection”. They are called “blessed and holy”. They reign with Christ for a thousand years, and upon them, the second death has no power. But things are quite different for the “rest of the dead” who are brought back to life in the “second resurrection”. The “rest of the dead” includes everyone who did not belong to Jesus Christ. They are not called blessed or holy. They did not reign with Jesus Christ for a thousand years. They must face Jesus in the Great White Throne Judgment. And upon them the second death does have power. But does this mean that they are condemned for eternity? Notice what John says:
“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20: 11-15)
This is the time of judgment, and Jesus Christ is the Judge! But these scriptures are very interesting in light of traditional views of the Great White Throne Judgment. If everyone is resurrected to condemnation, then why is the Book of Life opened? (Remember, all who belonged to Jesus Christ were brought back to life in the first resurrection a thousand years earlier.) Is it possible that even now God’s grace is sufficient for a repentant sinner to find mercy? If it is too late, then why even open the Book of Life? Remember, the Judge of all mankind is also the Savior of all mankind who died that we might have life! Before we pass judgment, we should consider the following sample of scriptures:
As we consider the Last Great Day, we should ask ourselves a few questions. What about those who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ or do not understand God’s will? Will a loving God condemn them for what they didn’t know? Didn’t Paul say, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10: 14) The Last Great Day teaches us that there is one last chance for the repentant sinner at the Great White Throne Judgment. Like the prodigal son and the thief on the cross, mercy can still be shown to a sinner who wishes to repent. Yes, the Great White Throne Judgment is a time of judgment. Yes, men will have to give an account for their sins and some will be eternally condemned. But is it also possible that some, if not many, will find mercy, forgiveness, and grace because they were repentant?
God does not take pleasure in the death of anyone. God loved the world so much that He sent his only Son to die so that we might have life. And Jesus Christ died for us so that we could be forgiven. Is it possible that the day of salvation for most is found on this Last Great Day? After all, this will be the first time that many even recognize Jesus Christ as the Savior and King. For those who accept Him as such, this Last Great Day offers them one last chance at a new beginning. But for those who reject Jesus Christ as their Savior and King and refuse to repent, there will be eternal condemnation.
As this period of judgment comes to a close, something else happens. Death and Hades (i.e. the grave) are destroyed as they are thrown into the lake of fire. The former things have come to past. It is time for a new beginning, a new heaven and a new earth. And so we read:
“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’” (Revelation 21: 1-5)