God commanded holidays as important community seasons of worship. The three seasonal harvests contained the seven major feasts. All of these have great prophetic meaning in the history of redemption, not only commemorating His mighty acts in the redemption of Israel, but also picturing the ultimate redemption of the world through the acts of the Messiah.
Three times a year all the men were to appear before the Lord and celebrate God’s redemptive history (Exodus 23:14)
THE FIRST SEASONAL FEAST (UNLEAVENED BREAD) (Exodus 23:15) in the early spring (Abib- Nisan).
This Feast was comprised of three feasts commemorating the children of Israel being delivered from Egypt and the first fruit of harvest. These events correspond with the First Coming of the Messiah.
- The Lord’s Passover (Pesach) (Lev 23:5) (Beginning at twilight on the fourteenth day of the First month); the time of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the spotless Lamb of God, our Passover lamb (1 Cor 5:7).
1 Corinthians 5:7 7 Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.
- The Feast of the Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6). This begins on the fifteenth day of the first month. All leaven has been purged (the corruption of sin has been put away through the substitutionary death of Christ, the last Adam) and unleavened bread is to be eaten in commemoration of the urgent and immediate need to take God’s ordained escape route through repentance and faith in the Bread of Life (John 14:6; 6:35). We are called to a life of consecration in which we keep the Gospel Feast.
1 Corinthians 5:8 (NIV) 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.
- The Feast of First Fruits (Leviticus 23:9-14). One sheaf, the first grain to appear from the barley harvest, is waved as a single representative of the harvest that will eventually be ingathered. It is “accepted on your behalf”. This is the day that Jesus rose from the dead as the representative of a new man made up of both Jew and Gentile. He is accepted on our behalf. God’s wisdom has made Him, Jesus Christ, to be for us our righteousness, sanctification and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30)
THE SECOND SEASONAL FEAST (THE FEAST OF THE HARVEST) (Exodus 23:16a)
- The Feast of Weeks (Shavuot) (Leviticus 23:15-22, also called the Feast of Pentecost). After the first sheaf is presented on behalf of all on the Feast of First Fruits, seven weeks are counted off. On the fiftieth day after the Sabbath, would be the seventh week after the Resurrection and the day in which the Holy Spirit was given to bring the ingathering of the harvest (Acts 2). The two loaves speak of Jews and Gentiles (although still containing the leaven of sin) accepted in the sinless first fruit of the resurrection harvest (Christ).
THE THIRD SEASONAL FEAST (THE FEAST OF INGATHERING AT THE END OF THE YEAR) (Exodus 23:16b).
- The Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) (Leviticus 23:23-25) This was held on the first day of the seventh month. Whereas the events surrounding the first coming of the Messiah were celebrated in the Spring Feasts, the events surrounding Christ’s Second Coming are celebrated in the Autumn feasts. Christ return will be with the sound of the trumpet that will signal for our gathering together unto Him (Matt 24:31; 2 Thess 2:1).
- The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) (Leviticus 23:20-32). This is the Day when the people of Israel afflicted their souls with fasting, prayer and confession of sin as their High Priests made atonement on their behalf. Prophetically a spirit of grace and supplication will be poured out on the house of David and they will look on the One they have pierced. There will be repentance and cleansing (Zechariah 12:10-13:1) (NIV).
- The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) (Lev 23:33-44) This Feast reminded the Israelites of God blessing them as they tabernacled in the wilderness. They could look forward to permanently abiding in His presence. This prophetically pictures the future kingdom that God has prepared when Christ returns and is received as King of Kings. Gentiles will celebrate The Feast of Tabernacles with the Israelites (Zech 14;16-19)
NEW TESTAMENT READING: Matthew 24:29-51
Jesus speaks of the events that are prophesied in the Autumn Feasts listed above when He predicts His return as the Judge of all the nations. There will be the sounding of the Trumpet and the Ingathering of his elect (Matt 24:31).
Let’s not forget what Jesus said about the timing of His return, lest we become presumptuous.
Matthew 24:36 (NIV) 36 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
Let us not forget these words, lest we become careless:
Matthew 24:38-39 (NIV) 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
In addition to giving us signs of His coming, Jesus also gives us some parables about His coming.
The parables of Jesus have a two-fold purpose (Matthew 13:10-17). Some parables have the effect of bringing a judgment to those who have rejected truth, whose hearts have grown dull, who have closed their eyes and ears. They go unexplained to the hearer. Other parables have the effect of bringing light on a vital spiritual truth to those who listen with their hearts, eyes and ears open to what is being taught.
Learn the parable of the fig tree. Jesus explains it simply. Fig trees were common in the Middle East and everyone looked forward to being able to harvest figs every summer from the trees in their yards. When a fig tree’s branch is tender and it puts forth its leaves, you know that the harvesting of figs is just around the corner.
In the gospels, the harvest speaks of final judgment.
John the Baptist speaks of Jesus coming as Judge: 12 “His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:12)
Jesus speaks of the separation of the wheat and tares in Matthew 13:30 30 ‘Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘”
Jesus is answering the question regarding the timing of the end of the age with this parable. “When you see all these things, you know that He is near, at the very gates (the Son of Man returning as Judge). Just as the budding leaves are a sign of the imminent harvest of figs, so the generation that sees ALL these things should recognize that the end of the age, the final judgment is at hand. What things? All these things: 1. The birth pangs; 2. The abomination of desolation with the antichrist standing in the holy place; 3. The flight of those who are in Judea to the mountains; 4. The disturbances in the heavens and the earth.
Matthew 24:34 34 “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.
Which generation? THIS GENERATION that sees ALL THESE THINGS. Recognize that the end of the age, the judgments at the return of Christ is imminent. (The parables that follow in Matthew 25 are about the judgments).
The Parable of the Obedient and Disobedient Servants.
Jesus gives a parable that reminds us of the danger of not living with an expectancy of His return. Each local assembly is like a household. God has put servants, spiritual leaders, in each household and given them the responsibility of feeding its members. They are responsible to the household members and the household members are responsible to respect their God-given function. If the spiritual leader is obediently doing his job when the Lord returns, he shall be rewarded. But if that leader is not doing his job when the Lord returns, he will be dealt with in a severe way, suffering loss at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
The disobedient servant in the parable ceased to expect the Lord’s return, mistreated his fellow servants, and lived like the world with little concern for spiritual realities. We are called to live in the light of the Lord’s return and diligently attend to the ministries we have been given. Let’s live a life that is pleasing to God with no regrets! Live each day as if it were the day of the Lord’s return!
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PSALMS: Psalm 30:1-12
PSALM 30 is a great psalm of Thanksgiving reminding us of God’s great work of deliverance in our lives that turns our weeping into rejoicing! We all want our lives to count, yet we are lost to that purpose, apart from God’s mercy and help. This song celebrates the fact that God hears our prayers, provides deliverance from futility, from life in the pit, from self-pity and condemnation. He deals with us because He loves us and turns our mourning into dancing and gladness. The Psalm begins and ends in the spirit of ‘thanks-living’!
Proverbs 7:24-27 24 Now therefore, my sons, listen to me, and pay attention to the words of my mouth. 25 Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways, do not stray into her paths. 26 For many are the victims she has cast down, and numerous are all her slain. 27 Her house is the way to Sheol, descending to the chambers of death.
PRAYER: Father, You are the Lord of history and pleasing You is the goal of history. Thank You for giving us the assurance of that goal fulfilled in Christ. You are faithful who have called us into participation of Your choice purposes in Him. He is our Passover, our Unleavened Life, the First-fruit Promise of Resurrection, the Lord of the harvest, the Coming One, our Atoning Sacrifice and the One who has pledged to tabernacle with us throughout the ages! Help us to be diligent in our service to Your household with an eye to the return of the Lord Jesus. Thank You for dealing with us in our daily walk with the assurance that none of Your promises will fail; that truly joy comes in the morning!