Last Sunday we began our examination of Leviticus 23 and these seven “feasts” or “holy convocations” God specifically structured the Nation of Israel’s calendar to revolve around.
The first three (Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits) all took place in the springtime following the barely harvest. The Feast of Pentecost came 50-days later after the wheat harvest and before the summer heat set in. The final three (Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and Feast of Tabernacles) occurred in the Fall along with the grape and olive harvests.
As we noted in our previous study, in addition to giving the people ample time to rest from their work, these seven “holy convocations” were basically sanctified parties designed to accomplish three things: one — commemorate a past work of God, two — celebrate God’s present involvement, and lastly — anticipate a work God was going to bring about at some point in their future. The Hebrew word “festival” can mean rehearsal.
What makes Leviticus 23 so spectacular is God is not only explaining to Israel what He was planning to do, but He’s telling them when He’s actually going to do it! You see these seven feasts present for us the timeline for God’s handling of the Jewish people through the person of Jesus. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 2 these seven Jewish feasts presented “a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ Jesus” (KJV).
Last week we discovered how the Feast of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits all found their ultimate fulfillment in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ!
This morning we’re going to see how the Feast of Pentecost was a precursor to the birth of the church and how these final three Fall festivals find there prophetic fulfillment in the Rapture (Trumpets), a time known as Jacob’s Trouble or the Great Tribulation (the Day of Atonement), and the final gathering of the Jews at Christ’s 2nd Coming (Tabernacles).
Leviticus 23:15-16, “And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering (the time was in relation to the Feast of Firstfruits): seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord.”
While not officially titled here in Leviticus 23, this particular feast — which was to take place specifically “seven Sabbaths” from the Feast of Firstfruits or a grand total of “fifty days” — became known as the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost (literally meaning 50-days). Note: The timing of the day following “seven Sabbaths” places us on another Sunday morning!
The fundamental purpose for this feast centered on the firstfruits of a “new grain” harvest of wheat. Continuing… Leviticus 23:17-22, “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. And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs of the first year, without blemish, one young bull, and two rams. They shall be as a burnt offering to the Lord, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma to the Lord.
Then you shall sacrifice one kid of the goats as a sin offering, and two male lambs of the first year as a sacrifice of a peace offering. The priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the Lord for the priest. And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.
When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God.” (We find in this last verse basically a repeating of the Lord’s original instructions found in Leviticus 19:9-10.)
For starters, the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost was one of the three mandated harvest festivals. 50-days following Firstfruits (the barely harvest) every Hebrew male had to make the journey back to the Tabernacle in celebration of yet another successful wheat harvest.
Aside from Pentecost being a celebration of God’s present provision of grain, historically the Hebrews viewed this Feast as a time to commemorate their formation into a new nation. In a modern context think of the Feast of Pentecost as a Jewish 4th of July.
While God had freed them from bondage on Passover, cleansed them of Egypt on Unleavened Bread, making them the Firstfruits of His people, it was 50 days after their liberation that God gave them the Law from Sinai birthing a new nation on Pentecost.
What makes Pentecost so interesting is 40-days after His resurrection Jesus specifically instructed His disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. According to the record provided in Acts 2, exactly 10 days following His ascension which proved to be the Sunday 50-days after the Feast of Firstfruits, “when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they (Jesus’ disciples) were all with one accord in one place (likely a portion of Temple complex known as Solomon’s portico). And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language.”
It’s not an accident Acts 2 opens with this phrase “when the Day of Pentecost had fully come.” In fact, the phrase “had fully come” would be better translated as “when the Day of Pentecost had finally come to represent everything is was supposed too.” The idea being every Pentecost celebration had simply been a rehearsal for this very moment!
On the first Pentecost God took a group of people He’d just liberated from bondage and He formed them into a nation using the Law. Now 1500 years later, after freeing a group of people from the bondage of sin, Jesus makes His disciples into a new nation through the outpouring of His Holy Spirit. On Pentecost both Israel and the Church were born!
It’s riveting that in the procedures established in Leviticus 23 we discover two details that end up being central to the DNA of the Church. In verse 17 God instructed the people, “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.”
Because of the reminder at the end of this section concerning “gleaning” in the fields and how during harvest times they were to make provisions for the “poor and stranger,” in their traditional celebrations of Pentecost it was customary for the Jews to read through the Book of Ruth. And yet, most incredibly, we understand the story of Ruth really centers on a Gentile becoming the bride of a Hebrew Kinsman-Redeemer named Boaz.
How cool to consider the Church was not only to be made up of “two” separate “loaves” — Jews and Gentile, but that a Gentile church would become the bride of a Hebrew redeemer!
Aside from the glorious picture this presents, did you also notice these “two loaves” of bread are really unique in that they were to be “baked with leaven?” Why this break from protocol? Right from the beginning we have this acknowledgement that Jesus’ Church, while justified, wouldn’t be entirely pure or perfect. Yes, Christians are His righteous Bride, but there is no question we still wrestle with the practical effects of sin. A new people formed on Pentecost consisting of “two loaves” Jew and Gentile “baked with leaven!”
There is one additional interconnection that should be mentioned… According to Exodus 32 when Moses came down with the two tablets of stone he found the people had crafted for themselves a Golden Calf they were worshipping. As a result of their idolatry and wickedness, on the day in which the nation of Israel was born, 3000 souls perished!
If you skip ahead to the result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, in Acts 2:41 we read, “Then those who gladly received his word (a sermon given by the Apostle Peter), were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” When the Law was given and Israel born it resulted in the death of 3000 human souls. However, when the Holy Spirit was sent and the Church born 3000 souls were saved!
On Passover Jesus died. On Unleavened Bread He was buried. On Firstfruits He rose from the dead. 50-days later on Pentecost the Holy Spirit birthed the Church. But then something interesting happens… Following the fourth festival would come the hot summer months. Regarding God’s prophetic calendar these four months would be relatively uneventful.
Let’s look at the first of these Fall festivals — The Feast of Trumpets… Leviticus 23:23-25, “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. You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord.’”
While thin on the details in Numbers 29 God expounds upon the activities that were to be associated with the Feast of Trumpets particularly focusing on the various sacrifices that were to be made on this “first day in the seventh month.” Though Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) happens in our Fall, the Feast marked the beginning of the Jewish New Year.
On this first day, aside from taking a day of “sabbath-rest” and making necessary sacrifices, there was to be “a memorial of blowing trumpets.” In Numbers 10 God specified the creation of two trumpets of silver to be used for all kinds of occasions. The blast of the trumpets would summon the people to gather around the Tabernacle of meeting. Trumpet blasts would indicate the time had come for Israel to break camp and move to a new location. In extreme circumstances trumpets would be used to sound a battle alarm.
On this day and in relation to the New Year it would seem the blast of the trumpets served two related functions. First, the trumpet was designed to awaken the people from their long summer hiatus and alert them something important was beginning. In actuality, this particular feast would last for 10 days and culminate with the Day of Atonement.
Note: What’s interesting about both the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement was that neither were mandated. The Jewish people were not required to congregate for these two feasts. Instead, following the trumpet blast the men of Israel would have 15 days to begin their pilgrimage to Jerusalem in order to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.
Secondly, the blast of the trumpet was to be a “memorial” for the people or literally a call to remembrance. In Exodus 19 God commands Moses to prepare the people to come to Sinai in order to receive the Law. God was clear that “when the trumpet sounds long, they shall come near the mountain.” We then read, “It came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people trembled.
And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice.”
Understand, the sounding of the trumpets on this particular feast intended to remind the people of Israel of the original trumpet that God blew when He first gathered His people around the base of Mount Sinai. The blasting of the trumpets served to remind the people who they were and alert them something very important was about to begin.
What’s fascinating is that while you’ll find trumpets mentioned frequently in Scripture the Bible only mentions God sounding a trumpet on two occasions. As we just read the first was from Sinai in order to gather Israel to Himself. The second we find mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 directly connected to what we know as the Rapture of the Church.
We read, “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. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up (in the Greek this is the word we get raptured from) together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
Let me quickly give you two additional references that also connect the second and final trumpet of God with this event… In 1 Corinthians 15:51-53, “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, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, this mortal immortality.”
Directly following two chapters where Jesus addresses seven churches, John records in Revelation 4:1-2, “After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, ‘Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.’ Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.”
Regarding this timeline of God’s dealing with the Jewish people, following this long summer break, the Feast of Trumpets will find it’s prophetic fulfillment in the Rapture of the Church. In an unexpected moment still yet to come the second trumpet of God will sound and Christians will be gathered from around the world to “meet the Lord in the air.”
While the Feast of Trumpets involved Christians, understand both the trumpet and the events of that day are designed to do two things in the lives of the Hebrew people. The trumpet blast should remind them they were still chosen by God to be His people. And the trumpet should alter them that something very important was kicking into high gear.
In a sermon about end times events known as the Olivet Discourse in Luke 21:24 Jesus says, “And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” Paul will pick up this idea in Romans 11 writing, “I do not desire that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.’”
Prophetically, the summer between Pentecost and Trumpets is referred to as the Church Age. God’s dealing with Israel have been paused until “the fullness of the Gentiles” is complete. Then following the removal of the Church at the Feast of Trumpets God turns His attention back to an Israel that had rejected the Messiah He’d sent many years earlier.
Within this prophetic timeline 10 days following the blast of the trumpets comes the Day of Atonement… The Church is gone and the Hebrew people enter into a period referred to in Jeremiah 30 as “a time of Jacob’s trouble” where Israel along with the entire world go through a Great Tribulation. In the process of these things Zechariah 12 records how a national revival will take place among the Jews recognizing Jesus as their Messiah.
The prophet writes, “It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem.”
Leviticus 23:26-32, “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God.
For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people. And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath.’”
Regarding what the Day of Atonement served to commemorate as well as celebrate I’d refer you back to our study in Leviticus 16. That said… Prophetically, this day will find it’s ultimately fulfillment when the Jewish people come to the point in which they recognize and accept Jesus as the only way for atonement to occur. Tragically, it will take a grand deception by the Anti-Christ, an abomination which causes desolation, and an incredible period of persecution akin to the Holocaust for the Jews to open their eyes to Jesus.
Which now leads us to the seventh and final festival on the Jewish calendar — The Feast of Tabernacles… Leviticus 23:33-36, “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘The fifteenth day of this seventh month (this would be 15 days following Trumpets and 5 days after the Day of Atonement) shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the Lord (it would last an entire week). On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it. For seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it.”
Leviticus 23:37-40, “These are the feasts of the Lord which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire to the Lord, a burnt offering and a grain offering, a sacrifice and drink offerings, everything on its day — besides the Sabbaths of the Lord, besides your gifts, besides all your vows, and besides all your freewill offerings which you give to the Lord.
Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land (the grape and olive harvest), you shall keep the feast of the Lord for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath-rest. And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days.
Leviticus 23:41-44, “You shall keep it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. You shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 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.’ So Moses declared to the children of Israel the feasts of the Lord.”
In order to commemorate their time in the wilderness and to celebrate the fact God had faithfully led them to a land of their own, during these seven days the Children of Israel would gather around the Tabernacle and basically have a week long family camp! These “booths” or “tabernacles” were nothing more than makeshift tents made up of “branches” that would provide shade from the sun, but allow you to look up and see the stars at night.
Practically, since the Feast of Tabernacles was the final festival before the winter rains set in the celebration not only intended to thank God for yet another faithful year, but to petition Him for the rain necessary to have a successful crop the following Spring.
More broadly, this particular feast was also designed to celebrate the completion of everything. You see father’s were instructed to use this week as an opportunity to teach their kids the story of God’s provision beginning with creation, to His call of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the salvation He provided in Joseph, how He’d raised up Moses to deliver them from Egypt, how God took care of them as He led them to this land of promise. God wanted the affliction they experienced on the Day of Atonement to morph into joy!
Regarding God’s prophetic timeline of these things the Feast of Tabernacles has a clear fulfillment in the 2nd Coming of Jesus and His Millennial Reign on this earth for 1000 years. Speaking of this time we read in Zechariah 14:16, “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.”
There are some scholars who make the argument that Jesus was actually born during the Feast of Tabernacles. To this point they’ll point to John 1:14 where we read, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (tabernacled among us), and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Though it’s impossible to affirm or deny this claim, by the time Jesus’ earthly ministry had hit its stride two traditions had become incorporated with this festival. In order to commemorate the cloud that led them by day and the pillar of fire by night, during this feast the priests would light these enormous candelabras that were hung on the outer walls of the Temple mount. In fact, first-century historian Josephus writes the reflection of the flames bouncing off the marble and gold were so blinding they could be seen from miles away!
How interesting that with this as the backdrop Jesus would declare to a crowd of onlookers who’d just witnessed Him pardon a woman caught in adultery in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."
Aside from this there was a water ceremony designed to commemorate the water God provided from the rock while they were in the wilderness as well as a future water source that would come from the Mount of Olives upon the arrival of the Messiah (Zechariah 14).
In order to commemorate these things, each of the first seven days during this festival the priests would go down to the Pool of Siloam (which was located just outside the southernmost gate of the city) to fill a large, ornate golden vessel with water. Then, as the crowds were chanting and signing psalms with the shofar ringing loudly, this golden vessel would be paraded through the city up to the Temple. Upon their arrival the priest would mix the water with wine before pouring it all over the altar to the cheers of the crowd.
While the 8th and final day of the feast would see the same ceremony take place, because it was the last day when the people exited their booths and started the preparations to return home, the water ceremony looked forward to the coming harvest. As such there was to be no celebration or pageantry, but instead a solemness and reverence.
On this “the last great day of the feast” known as Hoshana Rabbah (which is translated as “save now”) the priests, as they’d done the previous seven days, would draw the water from the Pool of Siloam and carry it back into the Temple to be poured onto the altar.
And yet, in contrast to the previous week, while this is happening instead of the blasts of the shofar and adulation of the crowd, the people would be silently praying that God would continue His blessing by providing another year of life-giving rain for the upcoming crop!
Imagine being on the Temple Mount filled to capacity with silent onlookers praying that God would send water from heaven as the priests pour out the water mixed with wine onto the altar. As all of this is happening your thoughts are naturally drawn back to God’s previous faithfulness when He provided your forefathers water from that rock in the wilderness…
Your eyes are closed as you pray for a similar work when, out of nowhere, that solemn moment is abruptly interrupted by a voice! Booming across the Temple and instantly catching those in prayer off-guard is the familiar voice of Jesus who’s actually stood up and begun “crying out” for everyone to hear, “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.”
Not only was Jesus the rock used by God to provide life-giving water, but this mixture of water and wine being poured onto the altar foreshowed the work of Jesus on the altar of Calvary when from His side came a mixture of water and blood. What’s amazing is this work could only occur on the 8th day — a day of grace and new beginnings.
In closing… Leviticus 23 presented seven feast that all point to the work of Jesus. On Passover He died for sin. On Unleavened Bread He was buried. On Firstfruits He rose from the dead. 50-days later on Pentecost the Spirit birthed the Church which was followed by an uneventful hiatus that would be interrupted by the blast of a Trumpet.
On account of this great period of tribulation that would follow the Jews would finally come to accept the Atonement provided by Jesus. And while their affliction would be immense it would all turn to joy when Jesus returns again on the Feast of Tabernacles.
My friend… Leviticus 23 is truly one of the most radicle chapters in all of the Bible for God not only explains to Israel what He was planning to do in their lives through His Son Jesus, but He’s telling them when He’s actually going to do it!
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