We were blessed to hear a great message from Pastor Rich Greene at Life Church in North Liberty last Sunday. He spoke on the difference between religion and a relationship with Jesus Christ. He alluded to the differences in the culture of the Greco-Roman world from the Jewish culture that the Apostles lived in and the challenge that they faced in evangelizing a culture with a vastly different cosmology. It caused me to recall some of my western civilization studies. The primary state-sponsored religion of the empire was emperor worship. Most people adhered just to get along. Emperor worship evolved as a natural progression of the pantheon mixed with the humanistic cosmology of the Greek philosophers. The “gods” of the Greco-Roman pantheon were worshiped primarily by middle/ lower class agrarian people. The “gods” of the pantheon were nothing more than glorified humans with very human characteristics, including their sin nature. Greed, envy, lust, jealousy, etc. were common to the pantheon. The pantheon gods were worshipped for their power. Thus, it would be natural to look upon the emperor as a god. The humanistic/ atheist philosophies of the Epicureans and the Stoics were adhered to primarily by the educated and academic classes. These upper class folks would have been the type that Paul witnessed to at the Areopagus.
It is important to understand that most Romans were not very satisfied with their cosmology. The emperor could be a cruel tyrant. He was noted for authoritarian control, the taking of property and oppressive taxation. The gods of the pantheon had not served the masses well in defending them.
It is amazing to consider how God prepared the 1st century Roman world for the spread of His gospel. Most scholars credit the Pax Romana, the peace of the empire, which enabled the evangelists to move about the empire freely. But there were other important contributing factors. The existence of the Jewish diaspora was crucial in making people familiar with the one God of the Jews. The neighborliness of most Jews and the unique nature of their God appealed to many disillusioned Romans. The God of the Jews was unique in that He was not only powerful, but He was “holy”, that is completely different than humans and without the sin nature of the gods of the pantheon. But, perhaps most importantly, the one desire for true freedom that God places in every human heart was what motivated Romans to receive the gospel message with gladness. True freedom from outside oppression and inner bondage can only be found in Christ. The Romans were ready to hear about a new King that offered eternal freedom. The message for which the Apostles were martyred was that there was a new King. They were not martyred for telling people how to get to heaven. The emperor could not have cared about that. But, another King was a threat.
Our society today has many parallels to ancient Roman. People have been promised security by an over arching and controlling government. They have neither security nor freedom and they are disappointed with the god of the state. They need to hear the message that there is a King that offers true and everlasting freedom.
I was recently discussing with some other pastors the difficulty in evangelizing today as opposed to during the Jesus People revival of the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s. We were asking ourselves, “What has changed?” Obviously, our culture has changed significantly. During the Jesus People revivals, our country was in the midst of the Vietnam War. When faced with the very real possibility of dying in a war, many people become idealistic and start looking for answers to the “big” questions of life, such as the existence of the soul, the afterlife and God. Today, people are too comfortable, satisfied with all of the comforts and pleasures that our modern technological age has afforded them. But, they are deceived! God has a better life for them.
We may seem comfortable now, but we can be sure that things will change. We know this from history and we know it from God’s word, the Bible. Our civilization will not prosper forever, ignoring God, because God doesn’t change! History proves it and the Holy Spirit confirms it!
In Jeremiah 2:13, we learn that God had two complaints against Israel: (1) that they had dug their own wells that didn’t yield any water and (2) that they had forsaken God, the source of living water. In other words, they had sought fulfillment in all sorts of things other than God while ignoring Him. Today, people commit the same sin, trying to find fulfillment in toys, games, sports, sex, entertainment, careers and everything else but God. But, God has something better for them. I think that one of the reasons that we have trouble evangelizing today is that people are not being convinced or even told that God has a feast for them, while they are settling for hot dogs. He has living water: abundance, true pleasure and joy.
Most people are unfulfilled. That is why they turn to idols. They are under the curse of sin. In Genesis 3, we read where God cursed man to a life of toil and labor because of our rebellion against Him. So it is true today, as it has been since Adam, that people spend most of their lives working at some task they would rather not be doing in order to survive and pay for all of the things that they are attempting to satisfy themselves with.
Have you ever been to a banquet? A banquet or a feast is a celebration. It is fun. It’s a good time. It is a special occasion. God’s Kingdom Feasts illustrate His plan to bring blessing to our lives. The feasts illustrate His plan to restore His rule on earth, to bring His kingdom, to restore Eden. That is something worth celebrating! My interest in God’s feasts was born out of a passion for seeing His Kingdom established here on earth, for Christ’s return. I often think about what it will be like and when will He come. I want to know how I should prepare myself, and the rest of the world for His coming. The Feasts help us to understand God’s plan for building His church and bringing His Kingdom. The feasts were and are a prophetic revelation of the foundational principles of our faith referred to in Hebrews 6. These are not new principles. God revealed them in the Old Testament. Today, He is restoring the age-old foundations, as He promised He would in Isaiah 58:12.
Some ask, “But aren’t the feasts for the old covenant?” It’s all God’s word; how do we apply it in the new covenant? Jesus said, “Till the heaven and the earth pass away, not one jot or one tittle shall in any way pass from the Law until all is fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:18 MKJV) Has all been fulfilled? What has been fulfilled? What is suspended? The civil law has been temporarily suspended, but not the moral law. The civil law and penalties were for the theocracy of Israel, which was a type of the Kingdom to come.
Why did God command His people to establish an earthly kingdom and why did it fail? The answer lies in the fact that they had not the power of the Holy Spirit within; they had unchanged hearts. They had the wrong King. Will a theocracy be re-instituted? Absolutely, yes! At that time, God’s civil law will be reestablished. Zealous Phinehas was a type of those who will rule with Christ.
We must know what is fulfilled and how we are to observe the fulfillment. Christ fulfilled the sacrificial law. Now, we are to offer a living sacrifice. Christ fulfilled the Sabbath. Today, we must rest in His finished work.
Why did the church stop celebrating the feasts? Why did they cease to move in the gifts? Why did they reject the authority of scripture? We can see from the book Acts that the Apostles kept the feasts (Acts 18:21, 20:16). The reason that all of these foundational truths were abandoned: anti-Semitism, secularization, influence of the spirit of anti-Christ. The feasts will be kept in the millennial kingdom. Zechariah 14 says, “And it shall be, everyone who is left of all the nations which came up against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, Jehovah of Hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.”(Zechariah 14:16 MKJV)
As with all of the Old Covenant, the feasts were and are a shadow of things to come. Celebrating the feasts should be faith building, keeping us focused on God’s plan. Therefore, God made it a command to all believers that we keep His feasts, “as a lasting ordinance.” They are not part of the sacrificial law that has been fulfilled. They are not part of the civil law for Israel that has been temporarily suspended. His feasts are not just for Jews, they are for all believers, all true Israelites. God never intended for the celebration of the feasts to stop under the new covenant. The Apostles understood this, they all continued to keep the feasts.
As Creator, part of God’s nature is that He displays order and design. He does not do things haphazardly. He does significant deeds at significant times and places. He tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mt Moriah in order to prophetically reveal how He would offer His only begotten son, Jesus, on the same hill, 2000 years later.
At a stable in Bethlehem, a Jew named Boaz and a gentile named Ruth united to bring forth the perfect servant, Obed, grandfather of David, who is a type of Christ, both King and Priest. God was showing that through their descendant, Jesus, He would bring forth the one new man, neither Jew of Gentile, but one in Christ. 1000 years later Christ was incarnated in a stable in Bethlehem
God also has done certain foundational actions at specific times, during His feast days. Passover marked Israel’s deliverance from the curse of death in Egypt. The Israelites were commanded to sacrifice a spotless lamb and mark the door-posts of their homes with the blood of the lamb and it would be a sign that would spare them from judgment. Significantly, it was on Passover that Jesus, the Lamb of God, was sacrificed to bring deliverance from sin and death for His people who have by faith applied the blood of His sacrifice to the door-posts of their heart. Three days after Passover, on the feast of Firstfruits, Christ rose from the dead, offering Himself as a type of first fruit of the harvest of souls.
It was on Pentecost that God gave the law amidst tongues of fire on Sinai. It was on Pentecost that Ruth and Boaz were married. It was on Pentecost that God poured out the Holy Spirit upon His people, empowering them to keep the law.
The Feasts portray God’s time clock. Jesus said, “open your eyes, you can tell when it’s time for the natural harvest…” The Kingdom is coming soon. 6000 years of God working is rapidly coming to a close and then Christ will have a Sabbath reign here on earth for 1000 years. Don’t be confused by man’s calendars. God doesn’t follow the Gregorian calendar.
The Feasts of the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar start with the ten-day Feast of Trumpets, which ends on the day of Atonement or Yom Kippur. They end with the 7-day Feast of Tabernacles. These feasts foreshadow the completion of God’s plan for establishing His Kingdom, bringing eternal judgment. The seventh and last trumpet of Rev. 11, whose sound announces the establishment of God’s earthly Kingdom, is the same trumpet which is blown on Yom Kippur, the same one referred to in 1Thessalonians 4 and in 1Corinthians 15:52
The Feast of Tabernacles was God’s ordinance for reminding the Israelites of their wilderness wanderings after they were delivered from Egypt and dwelt in tents. God wanted them to remember the lessons that they learned in the wilderness. Prophetically it points to the time when we will dwell with God face to face on this earth in a physical body or tent. According to Zechariah 14, this Feast will be celebrated each year during Christ’s millennial reign on earth, reminding us of the time that we lived in this present wilderness in our earthly bodies and of the lessons we learned during that time.
To understand the observance and meaning of the feasts we should look to God’s word: “Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth of this month they shall take to them each man a lamb for a father’s house, a lamb for a house… Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year.… And you shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month. And the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take some of the blood and strike on the two side posts and upon the upper door post of the houses in which they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roasted with fire, and unleavened bread. They shall eat it with bitter herbs….And the blood shall be a sign to you upon the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you. And the plague shall not be upon you for a destruction when I smite in the land of Egypt. And this day shall be a memorial to you. And you shall keep it as a feast to Jehovah throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by a law forever. You shall eat unleavened bread seven days; even the first day you shall put away leaven out of your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.”(Exodus 12:3, 5, 6-8, 13-15 MKJV)
Passover or Unleavened bread foreshadowed the sinless sacrifice of Christ. It revealed the foundation of being in holy communion with God. It shows us that we must repent from dead works and have faith toward God.
“And you shall count to you from the next day after the Sabbath (Passover), from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete. To the next day after the seventh sabbath you shall number fifty days. And you shall offer a new food offering to Jehovah. You shall bring out of your homes two wave loaves of two-tenth parts. They shall be of fine flour. They shall be baked with leaven, firstfruits to Jehovah….And you shall proclaim on the same day that it may be a holy convocation to you. You shall do no work of labor. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations. And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not completely reap the corner of your field. When you reap the gleaning of your harvest, you shall not gather. You shall leave them to the poor and to the stranger. I am Jehovah your God.” (Leviticus 23:15-17, 21-22 MKJV)
Pentecost or Weeks reveals that God continually has greater grace. God is always doing something new, continually offering more grace and power. The revealing of the law on Pentecost was an act of greater grace in which God put His holy requirements in writing for man to see. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost was an act of even greater grace giving His people the power to keep the law. God says in Haggai 2:9 that the glory of the latter temple shall exceed that of the former. This reveals a divine principle. Jesus saved the best wine for last when He performed His first miracle at the wedding in Cana (Jn 2). The Bible teaches that there is a progression from order to glory to judgment in which the greater the glory, the swifter the judgment. The best days of the church are ahead, because God gives more grace. Pentecost reveals God’s foundational purpose, that we be holy, as He is holy. We must be baptized in the Holy Spirit daily.
“Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. Ye shall do no, servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD.” (Leviticus 23:24-25 KJV) “Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be a holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD. And ye shall do no, work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God. For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people. And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among, his people. Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.” (Leviticus 23:27-31 KJV)
The feasts of the seventh month, Trumpets and Tabernacles, are the Feasts of Ingathering. They celebrate the completion of the harvest of souls for God’s Kingdom. Trumpets announce the coming of the King. The message of trumpets is, “Prepare to dwell with God, prepare the wedding feast; celebrate the coming of the King.” To do so necessitates the laying on of hands, discipling, empowering and equipping people for service in God’s army. We are commanded to blow the Trumpet. In other words, open your mouth and make the coming Kingdom known. Today, many Christians are telling people how to get to heaven, but we aren’t saying much about heaven coming here. If you study the evangelistic ministry of Paul in the book of Acts, you will notice that what continually got him in trouble with the Roman authorities was not his telling people about a way to heaven, but that a new King was coming. Preparing for the coming Kingdom will enable the fulfillment of God’s purpose for the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.
How should we keep the Feasts in faith now? We must understand God’s plan and our purpose here. Ro 12:1 calls us to live our lives as living sacrifices. Keeping the Feasts daily; not as annual rituals. How do we observe Passover? Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me” as He broke bread with His disciples. We keep the Passover by remembering that it was Christ’s sacrifice that is the unleavened bread of Passover, the sacrificial Lamb of God. He is the source of our forgiveness, healing and deliverance from sin and death. We keep the feast by offering our lives as a living sacrifice, holy unto the Lord, which is only possible because of our Passover. We live holy by the power of the Holy Spirit within us, which is only possible because Christ offered the only sacrifice that could cleanse our temples, making them fit dwelling places for His Spirit. We keep the Passover by being in communion or fellowship with God and with His people.
We celebrate Pentecost by availing ourselves of greater grace each step of our walk with Christ, going beyond tongues (not forgetting), going beyond the initial baptism to being baptized daily. Be like God: do something new. Give of yourself sacrificially. Be a blessing to others.
We celebrate Ingathering by being a disciple who makes disciples. Blow the trumpet daily; prepare the way for the Kingdom. Afflict yourselves, die to self, become a living sacrifice. Adopt a lifestyle of fasting and prayer. Celebrate Tabernacles by dwelling with God in the tent of your body in this earthly wilderness until He brings you into the fullness of His Kingdom.
Live at God’s banqueting table! God’s feasts remind us that God has fullness and blessing for us. Live a life that people will envy. Practice evangelism that works. Be confident that we have something that the world can’t provide. We have been delivered from the curse of sin and death because we have been restored to fellowship and have abandoned idols. Tell people about the great and wonderful Kingdom which Jesus is about to inaugurate here on earth. There will be no more death. The earth will bear fruit. We will no longer have to toil to reap blessing and security. There will be no more pain and sorrow in raising children. It will all be good.
The Kingdom is already here in part; we can begin to receive a measure of blessing now. We can be fruitful in order to bless others. We can have joy; we can celebrate. We can be content, satisfied and thankful; 1Thess 5:16 says, “…rejoice, give thanks… this is God’s will.” Rejoice, celebrate, and give thanks in the feasts!