The Feasts of Israel
A Study in Symbolic Prophecy
by Dr. David R. Reagan
"Let no one act as your judge in regard to food
or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon
or a Sabbath day things which are a mere shadow of
what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ."
Colossians 2:16-17 (NASB)
This statement by the Apostle
Paul refers to the Jewish Feasts as a "mere shadow"
of things to come, the substance of them being found
in Yeshua, the Messiah. What Paul is saying here is
that the feasts were prophetic types, or symbols, that
pointed to the Messiah and which would be fulfilled
Before we pursue that point to
see how the feasts were fulfilled in Jesus, let's first
of all familiarize ourselves with the feasts.
Origin and Timing of the Feasts
The feasts were a part of the Mosaic Law that was given
to the Children of Israel by God through Moses (Exodus
12; 23:14-17; Leviticus 23; Numbers 28 & 29; and
Deuteronomy 16). The Jewish nation was commanded by
God to celebrate seven feasts over a seven month period
of time, beginning in the spring of the year and continuing
through the fall.(NASB) You will find the timing and
sequence of these feasts illustrated on the chart below.
As you study the chart, notice that the feasts fall
into three clusters. The first three feasts Passover,
Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits occur in rapid succession
in the spring of the year over a period of eight days.
They came to be referred to collectively as "Passover."
The fourth feast, Harvest, occurs fifty days later
at the beginning of the summer. By New Testament times
this feast had come to be known by its Greek name, Pentecost,
a word meaning fifty.
The last three feasts Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles
extend over a period of twenty-one days in the fall
of the year. They came to be known collectively as "Tabernacles."
The Nature of the Feasts
Some of the feasts were related primarily to the agricultural
cycle. The feast of First Fruits was a time for the
presentation to God of the first fruits of the barley
harvest. The feast of Harvest was a celebration of the
wheat harvest. And the feast of Tabernacles was in part
a time of thanksgiving for the harvest of olives, dates,
Most of the feasts were related to past historical
events. Passover, of course, celebrated the salvation
the Jews experienced when the angel of death passed
over the Jewish houses that were marked with the blood
of a lamb. Unleavened Bread was a reminder of the swift
departure from Egypt so swift that they had no time
to put leaven into their bread.
Although the feasts of Harvest and Tabernacles were
related to the agricultural cycle, they both had historical
significance as well. The Jews believed that it was
on the feast day of Harvest that God gave the Law to
Moses on Mt. Sinai. And Tabernacles was a yearly reminder
of God's protective care as the Children of Israel tabernacled
in the wilderness for forty years.
The Spiritual Significance of the Feasts
All the feasts were related to the spiritual life of
the people. Passover served as a reminder that there
is no atonement for sin apart from the shedding of blood.
Unleavened Bread was a reminder of God's call on their
lives to be a people set apart to holiness. Leaven was
a symbol of sin. They were to be unleavened that is,
holy before the nations as a witness of God.
The feast of First Fruits was a call to consider their
priorities, to make certain they were putting God first
in their lives. Harvest was a reminder that God is the
source of all blessings.
The solemn assembly day of Trumpets was a reminder
of the need for constant, ongoing repentance. The Day
of Atonement was also a solemn assembly day a day of
rest and introspection. It was a reminder of God's promise
to send a Messiah whose blood would cover the demands
of the Law with the mercy of God.
In sharp contrast to Trumpets and Atonement, Tabernacles
was a joyous celebration of God's faithfulness, even
when the Children of Israel were unfaithful.
The Prophetic Significance of the Feasts
What the Jewish people did not seem to realize is that
all of the feasts were also symbolic types. In other
words, they were prophetic in nature, each one pointing
in a unique way to some aspect of the life and work
of the promised Messiah.
1) Passover - Pointed to the Messiah as our
passover lamb whose blood would be shed for our sins.
Jesus was crucified on the day of preparation for the
Passover, at the same time that the lambs were being
slaughtered for the Passover meal that evening.
2) Unleavened Bread - Pointed to the Messiah's
sinless life, making Him the perfect sacrifice for our
sins. Jesus' body was in the grave during the first
days of this feast, like a kernel of wheat planted and
waiting to burst forth as the bread of life.
3) First Fruits - Pointed to the Messiah's resurrection
as the first fruits of the righteous. Jesus was resurrected
on this very day, which is one of the reasons that Paul
refers to him in I Corinthians 15:20 as the "first
fruits from the dead."
4) Harvest or Pentecost - (Called Shavuot today.)
Pointed to the great harvest of souls, both Jew and
Gentile, that would come into the kingdom of God during
the Church Age. The Church was actually established
on this day when the Messiah poured out the Holy Spirit
and 3,000 souls responded to Peter's first proclamation
of the Gospel.
The long interval of three months between Harvest and
Trumpets pointed to the current Church Age, a period
of time that was kept as a mystery to the Hebrew prophets
in Old Testament times.
That leaves us with the three fall feasts which are
yet to be fulfilled in the life and work of the Messiah.
Because Jesus literally fulfilled the first four feasts
and did so on the actual feast days, I think it is safe
to assume that the last three will also be fulfilled
and that their fulfillment will occur on the actual
feast days. We cannot be certain how they will be fulfilled,
but my guess is that they most likely have the following
5) Trumpets - (Called Rosh Hashana today.) Points
to the Rapture when the Messiah will appear in the heavens
as a Bridegroom coming for His bride, the Church. The
Rapture is always associated in Scripture with the blowing
of a loud trumpet (I Thessalonians 4:13-18 and I Corinthians
6) Atonement - (Called Yom Kippur today.) Points
to the day of the Second Coming of Jesus when He will
return to earth. That will be the day of atonement for
the Jewish remnant when they "look upon Him whom
they have pierced," repent of their sins, and receive
Him as their Messiah (Zechariah 12:10 and Romans 11:1-6,
7) Tabernacles - (Called Sukkot today.) Points
to the Lord's promise that He will once again tabernacle
with His people when He returns to reign over all the
world from Jerusalem (Micah 4:1-7).
The Week of Millenniums
One final note about the feasts. Six of them the first
six are related to man's sin and struggle to exist.
The last feast, Tabernacles, is related to rest. It
is the most joyous feast of the year. It looks to the
past in celebration of God's faithfulness in the wilderness.
It looks to the present in celebration of the completion
of the hard labor of the agricultural cycle. And it
looks to the future in celebration of God's promise
to return to this earth and provide the world with rest
in the form of peace, righteousness and justice
The seven feasts thus parallel what I call the "rhythm
of God" that was established during the week of
creation namely, six days of work followed by one day
Because God's division of time into sevens, or weeks, so
thoroughly permeates the Scriptures, the Jewish Rabbis
concluded before the time of Jesus that human history
would extend over a "Week of Millenniums,"
or for a period of 7,000 years.
According to the view most frequently expressed in
the Talmud, there would be 6,000 years of human toil
and strife followed by 1,000 years of peace. This Millennial
Sabbath would be the period of the Messianic kingdom
during which time the Messiah would reign in person
over all the world from Jerusalem (Isaiah 24:21-23).
In other words, the Jews had concluded long before
the book of Revelation was written that the Lord's reign
on earth would last a thousand years. Revelation 20
confirmed this deduction by stating six times that the
reign would last a thousand years.
The concept of the Millennium in the book of Revelation
is therefore nothing new. The concept is rooted in the
creation week of Genesis. It is reaffirmed in the week
of feasts of Israel six feasts related to sin and toil
leading up to a sabbath feast of rest.
As you can see from the chart below, we are near the
end of the 6,000 years which the Jewish Rabbis believed
would usher in the Millennial kingdom. We are standing
on the threshold of the Sabbath Millennium. Yeshua is
For Deeper Study about the Feasts
For those interested in digging deeper into the spiritual
significance of the feasts of Israel, Dr. Reagan highly
recommends the book illustrated to the left by Richard
The book discusses the historical meaning of the feasts
and their symbolic prophetic significance. But the focus
is on the spiritual meaning of the feasts for the Christian
Booker observes that for 1,500 years, the Jewish people
learned about God through "visual aids" like
the feasts. As he puts it, "Their religious laws
and rituals taught them how to know God and walk with
Him on a daily basis.
But Booker stresses that these were only aids. The
time came when the Jews were to put away these physical
symbols and enter into the spiritual reality which they
portrayed. The transition from the physical to the spiritual
was provided for them through the person and work of
Jesus, their Messiah and Savior of the world.
As Booker puts it, "Jesus was God's ultimate visual
aid." Jesus Himself emphasized this when He said,
"Anyone who has seen Me, has seen the Father"
The Jewish rituals were only temporary visual aids.
God used them as object lessons to teach the Jewish
people about their coming Messiah. We no longer need
these rituals to show us the way to God.
But Booker observes: "This does not mean, however,
that these Hebrew visual aids are no longer valuable
to us. They still are very useful in helping us to better
understand how to know God and walk with Him through
a personal relationship with Jesus."
Which is why Booker wrote the book "I wrote this
book to help people learn how to encounter God in such
a way that they will walk in His divine peace, power,
The book itself is a spiritual feast. 115 pages. $10.00
plus $1.50 for shipping costs. You can order it from
Lamb & Lion by calling us at 1-800/705-8316.
Why the Jewish Feasts
Move Around on the Calendar
One of the first things you will probably notice when
studying any chart of the Jewish Feasts is that they
do not fall on specified dates according to the Gregorian
calendar that is used in the Western world. The reason
is that the Gregorian calendar (adopted in 1582 during
the reign of Pope Gregory XIII) is a solar one that
is related to the earth's revolution around the sun.
The Jews, in contrast, use a modified lunar calendar,
or what might be called a lunar/solar calendar.
A year on the Gregorian calendar runs 365 days. But
since it takes approximately 365¨ days for the earth
to make a complete circle around the sun, an extra day
is added in February every four years, making a Leap
Year of 366 days.
The Jewish calendar is based upon the movement of the
moon around the earth. A full circle takes about 29´
days. Thus, twelve of these lunar months add up to 354
days in a year. So, a solar year is 11¨ days longer
than a lunar year.
If the Jews followed a strict lunar calendar, as the
Muslims do, the feasts would migrate completely around
the calendar (as the Muslim feast of Ramadan does.)
But the Jews could not tolerate this since three of
their feasts are related directly to the agricultural
cycle. Therefore, they devised a method of modifying
their lunar calendar to bring it in line with the solar
year. They did this by adding an extra month of 29 days
about every three years (7 times in 19 years). This
month is called the intercalary month.
That's the reason that the feast of Passover, for example,
can occur in either March or April. The feast migrates
backward on the Gregorian calendar for three years and
then is propelled forward 29 days when the intercalary
month is added. Passover always falls on Nisan 14 on
the Jewish calendar, but that date moves around on the
Gregorian calendar as illustrated below.
In 1997 an intercalary month will be added. Without
it, Passover would fall on the evening of March 23rd.
But with the month added (March 10 - April 7), Passover
falls on the evening of April 21st.
Another difference between the calendars that should
be noted is that the Gregorian day begins at midnight
and runs until the next midnight. The Jewish day begins
at sundown (approximately 6:00pm) and runs until the
next day's sundown. The Passover meal is celebrated
at the beginning of Nisan 14, which would be in the