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Sanctuary lesson 17

Sanctuary Lesson 17 - Feasts

Why should we care about the feasts in the Bible?  Are they even relevant to us today?  These are very good questions that hopefully will be answered today as we learn a little bit about the feasts in the Bible.

Why did God establish these feasts in the first place?  In short, these feasts were a reminder to God's people of His protection, provision, and promises to them.  During the feasts, God's people rested, read the Scriptures, gave thanks through offerings, repented and offered sacrifices.  Leviticus 23 contains a record of all the feasts.  God appointed seven feasts, where all of Israel were to meet with Him (Leviticus 23:1-2):

  1. Passover
  2. Feast of Unleavened Bread
  3. Feast of Firstfruits
  4. Feast of Weeks (Pentecost)
  5. Feast of Trumpets
  6. Day of Atonement
  7. Feast of Tabernacles (Booths)

Just as God specifically organized the Sanctuary, He organized time into common (time when people can do their work, regular activities of life, etc.) and sacred (time dedicated to be spent with God).  These special days in essence make up a calendar of God's plan of redemption, or redeeming grace!

[Note that two well-known Jewish holidays, Hannukah (the Feast of Dedication - John 10:22) and Purim (the Feast of Lots - Esther 9:23-28), came to be celebrated much later in Jewish history.  Hannukah celebrates the Maccabees’ victory over the Greeks and the re-dedication of the Jewish temple in 165 BC after Antiochus Epiphanes defiled it by sacrificing a pig on the altar and pouring blood on the Scriptural scrolls. Purim celebrates the deliverance of the Jews through Queen Esther from a death decree.]

1. Passover - Pesach

The Passover comes from the Hebrew word "pesach," which literally means "pass over."  This feast commemorates God's deliverance of Israel out of Egypt.  Pharaoh would not let God's people go free, so God punished Egypt with ten plagues (Exodus chapters 7-11).  In the final plague, God killed the firstborn of all humans and animals in Egypt.  However, He gave His people a way to avoid this destruction by offering a lamb as a sacrifice in the place of the first-born of the family (Exodus 12).

How did the Passover point to Jesus?  Let's turn to John 1:29.

- According to this Bible verse, what did John call Jesus?

  • Answer (highlight to read): John called Jesus the lamb of God.

Let's turn to Luke 22:10; 1 Corinthians 5:7; and Ephesians 2:11-13.  

- According to these verses, what did the Lord's supper commemorate?

  • Answer: The Lord's supper commemorates the fulfillment of Jesus’ sacrifice as the Perfect Passover Lamb and fulfillment of the new covenant between God and man.

Scriptural references:

  • Exodus 12, Numbers 9, Numbers 28:16-25, 2 Chronicles 35:1-19, Ezra 6:19, Ezekiel 45:21
  • Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, John 6:4, 11, 13, 19, 1 Corinthians 5:7

2. Unleavened Bread – Hag HaMatzot

In the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Israelites were to eat unleavened bread for seven days.  The bread (made in a hurry without yeast during the Exodus) represented how God led His people out of Egypt in haste.

Let's turn to Luke 12:1 and 1 Corinthians 5:8.

- According to these verses, what is leaven symbolic of?

  • Answer: Leaven is symbolic of sin.

During the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Israelites cleansed their houses of leaven, which symbolized the search to remove hypocrisy and wickedness from their lives.  The bread that was eaten during this time is matzah, which was made from only flour and water, then striped and pierced.

How did the Feast of Unleavened Bread point to Jesus?

Let's turn to John 6:32, 35, 41, 48.

- According to these verses, what did Jesus call Himself?

  • Answer: Jesus called Himself the bread of life.

Let's turn to Isaiah 53:5.

- According to these verses, what happened to Jesus because of us?

  • Answer: Jesus was scourged and pierced for our sins.

Unleavened bread represents the pure sinless life of Jesus, who was beaten (John 19:1) and pierced on the cross (John 19:34) for our sins.

Scriptural references:

  • Exodus 23:15, Exodus 34:18, 2 Chronicles 30, Ezra 6:22
  • Acts 12:3, Acts 20:6

3. Firstfruits – Yom HaBikkurim

During the Feast of Firstfruits, offerings were given for the spring barley harvest.  The first ripe sheaf of barley (firstfruits) was offered to the Lord as an act of dedication.  The sheaf was marked, bundled, and left in the field on Passover.  On the next day, (the first day of the feast of the unleavened bread), the sheaf was cut down and prepared.  The priest waved the the sheaf before the Lord on the third day.  Note that since the Jerusalem temple was destroyed in 70 AD, the firstfruit sacrifices and offerings have no longer been offered by the Jews.

How did the Feast of Firstfruits point to Jesus?

Let's turn to Luke 24:44-47, 1 Corinthians 15:20-23; James 1:16-18.

- According to these verses, what did Jesus do?

  • Answer: Jesus resurrected on the third day, the day of Firstfruits.

Jesus' resurrection gave new meaning to the Feast of Firstfruits.  His resurrection is a promise to all believers that we will be resurrected in the future!

Scriptural references:

  • Exodus 34:22, 26, Leviticus 2:12, 14, Leviticus 23:10, 16-17

4. Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) – Shavuot

The Feast of Weeks celebrated the giving of the Law at Sinai and God's graceful provision of His people's physical needs.  The Feast of Weeks was celebrated 50 days after Passover.  It was a time to present the offering of the new grain from the summer wheat harvest to the Lord.

How did the Feast of Weeks point to Jesus?

Let's turn to Acts 1:1-5.

- According to these verses, what did Jesus tell His disciples to do?

  • Answer: Jesus told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem.

Let's turn to Acts 2:1-4.

- According to these verses, what happened to the disciples on the day of Pentecost (Shavuot)?

  • Answer: The disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit.

Seven weeks after the Passover miracle in Egypt, Israel entered into a covenant with God at the foot of Mount Sinai.  In the same way, 50 days after the death of Jesus Christ, on the day of Pentecost, God, through the Holy Spirit, entered into a new covenant with His people, which was sealed in Jesus' blood (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30).

Scriptural references:

  • Exodus 34:22, Deuteronomy 16:9-10, 2 Chronicles 8:13, Ezekiel 1:1-28
  • Acts 2:1-41, Acts 20:16, 1 Corinthians 16:8, James 1:18

5. Feast of Trumpets (New Year) – Rosh HaShanah

The Feast of Trumpets marked the beginning of the civil new year, which was the first day of the seventh month of the Hebrew calender, Tishri (which would be fall somewhere September and October, according to our calendar).  The Feast of Trumpets was also known as the Day of Judgment.  The Feast of Trumpets, the Ten Days of Repentance, and Yom Kippur make up the High Holy Days.  Prior to the Feast of Trumpets, a shofar (ram's horn) was blown to remind the Israelites that the Holy Days were coming.

How did the Feast of Trumpets point to Jesus?

Let's turn to John 5:24-27.

- According to these verses, what authority did God the Father give to Jesus?

  • Answer: Jesus was given the authority to execute judgment on people.

Let's turn to 2 Timothy 4:1.

- According to this Bible verse, what will Jesus do?

  • Answer: Jesus will judge the living and the dead.

Let's turn to Revelation 21:27.

- According to this verse, what does Jesus have?

  • Answer: He has the Book of Life.

Let's turn to John 10:27-30 and Revelation 20:15.

- According to these verses, how do you get your name inscribed into the Book of Life?

  • Answer: Only faith in Jesus as your Savior will get your name inscribed.

- According to these verses, what happens to those who are not found written into the Book of Life?

  • Answer: They will be cast into the lake of fire.  

The Feast of Trumpets points to second coming of Jesus Christ (Revelation 22:12) to bring His righteous people home (1 Corinthians 15:50-54).

Scriptural references:

  • Numbers 29:1-6
  • 1 Corinthians 15:50-54

6. Day of Atonement – Yom Kippur

The Day of Atonement was the most solemn holy day of the Jewish people.  We will study this Jewish holy day in depth in the next lesson.

Scriptural references

  • Leviticus 25:9, Numbers 29:7-11, Ezra 45:20, Zechariah 12:10-13:9
  • Acts 27:9

7. Feast of Tabernacles (Booths) – Sukkot

The Feast of Tabernacles was a week-long celebration of the fall harvest.  The Israelites built temporary shelters (known as booths) during this time and lived in them to remember how they were protected by God during their 40-year sojourn in the wilderness.  The plants used to cover the booths were citron, myrtle, palm, and willow (Leviticus 23:39-40).  There were two special ceremonies performed on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles:

  1. A priest would take water from the pool of Siloam and bring into the temple to symbolize that when the Messiah comes, "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9). 
  2. People would light torches all around the temple to symbolize how the Messiah would be a light to the Gentiles (Isaiah 49:6).

How did the Feast of Tabernacles point to Jesus?

Let's turn to John 7:37-38 and John 8:12 and read these verses together, keeping in mind the two special ceremonies of the Feast of Tabernacles:

  1. 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." - John 7:37-38
  2. Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." - John 8:12

Scriptural references:

  • Numbers 29:12-40, Deuteronomy 16:13-15, Ezra 3:4
  • John 7:37-38

The feasts and holy days all point to Jesus!  They are a "shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ" (Colossians 2:16-17).  The Passover pictures the death of Jesus, the perfect sacrifice.  The Feast of Unleavened Bread pictures Jesus as the sinless bread of life from heaven.  The Feast of Firstfruits points to Jesus' promise to all those who believe in Him.  Pentecost points to the coming of the Holy Spirit to His disciples to guide and empower them to spread the Gospel message.  The Feast of Trumpets points to the day Jesus will come and judge the righteous and the wicked.  The Day of Atonement points to the ultimate reconciliation between God and His people, and the final destruction of sin in the universe.  The Feast of Tabernacles points to the day all nations will share in the blessings and joys of God's kingdom with Jesus.

Friend, the more you study the sanctuary and the feasts, the better appreciation you will have for God's plan of redemption for us!