Proclaiming YHWH's Appointments
A Study of The Biblical Set Apart Times
By David M Rogers
Updated: August 2009
Table of Contents
The contemporary Christian church is fascinated with the New Testament. So much so, that they practically consign the Old Testament Scriptures to a place of uselessness. Dispensationalists would convince us that the Old Testament is for the ancient people of Israel, while the New Testament is for the modern day believer. "While we can learn from the Old," they say, "the New really sets out for us God's will for the Christian. But the Old Testament only set the standard of conduct for ancient Israel."
Yahusha Messiah (a.k.a. "Jesus Christ") scolded the religious leaders of his time for their mishandling of the (Old Testament) Scriptures. Yahusha emphasized the ongoing practicality and applicability of the Old Testament Scriptures in the Sermon on the Mount:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished (Matthew 5:17,18).
This is probably the most compelling statement in the New Testament regarding the contemporary relevance of the Old Testament Law. The bluntness of Yahusha's assertion cuts through all of the theological arguments of modern teachers and preachers who insist that the Old Testament is no longer a relevant and binding Word of Elohim for the follower of Messiah. Except for the brainwashing that occurs in the Christian pulpits around the world, even a casual reading of the verses above will put to rest forever any doubts for the discerning biblical interpreter that the Law maintains an ongoing validity (i.e. has not been "done away with").
Furthermore, Yahusha responded to pervading skepticism among his own followers regarding the usefulness of the Old Testament. In one statement, his view of the relevance of the Old Testament Scriptures is summarized:
He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" And beginning with Mosheh and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the (Old Testament) Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27)
In other words, the entire message being conveyed in the Tanach (Old Testament) - the Law and the Prophets - pertains to the life and ministry of Yahusha the Messiah and includes specific and precise times when the Redemption would take place..
I've always found that statement fascinating - that Yahusha told those two disciples all about himself, beginning with Mosheh and the Prophets and in all the Scriptures. Did you ever wonder the details Yahusha told them and which Scriptures he used? For the followers of Yahusha, that discussion was just the beginning of a new understanding of the Old Testament writings. In fact, the Old Testament is stuffed full of references and descriptions and illustrations of what Yahusha would do to accomplish redemption for his people. Indeed, the entire "Old Testament" is all about Yahusha!
But, before we get ahead of ourselves, let's go back to the foundational teachings of the Scriptures to find out what the Torah says regarding when these appointments occur and what these appointments are all about. Elohim established these set times or appointed days for the purpose of meeting with his people to proclaim a message. At these times, Elohim would meet with and communicate with his people. The times of these Appointments are recorded in Leviticus 23:1-4, where we read,
Yahuwah said to Mosheh, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'The appointments of Yahuwah, which you are to proclaim as set-apart proclamations. These are my appointments. There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of complete rest, a set-apart proclamation. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to Yahuwah. These are the appointments of Yahuwah - set-apart proclamations which you are to proclaim at their appointed times'"
The Hebrew word for appointment is d[eAm (pronounced moed. In the passage above, the translation of moed is underlined four times). This word means an appointed place, an appointed time, meeting, appointment.
The seventh-day Sabbath of every week is the first of the appointments of Yahuwah. This is a day of complete rest when all of Yahuwah's people are to cease from all the work of their hands and gather together for a reading (a proclamation) of the Word of Elohim.
Leviticus 23 verse 5 and forward goes on to outline and detail the seven annual appointments. They are summarized by the following chart:
In Exodus 13, d[eAm (moed) is used to describe the Feast of Unleavened Bread:
For seven days eat bread made without yeast and on the seventh day hold a festival to Yahuwah. Eat unleavened bread during those seven days; nothing with yeast in it is to be seen among you, nor shall any yeast be seen anywhere within your borders. On that day tell your son, 'I do this because of what Yahuwah did for me when I came out of Egypt.' This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that the law of Yahuwah is to be on your lips. For Yahuwah brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand. You must keep this ordinance at the appointed time year after year. (Exodus 13:6-10)
That the Sabbath and the annual set-apart days are called d[eAm (moed) is significant. Elohim has made these appointments to meet and fellowship with His people. We may better understand the significance of this by illustrating the point with a doctor's appointment. When a patient makes an appointment with his doctor, he is expected to be at a certain place at a certain time. To show up anywhere else or at any other time will not bring about the desired result he had in mind when he made the appointment. The doctor also has an obligation. He must perform the scheduled service for which he has obligated himself on behalf of the patient at the time of the appointment.
In the context of the annual appointments, a d[eAm (moed) also has a double meaning. As with an appointment, there is an obligation on two parties! First, all the sons of Israel have an appointment to be at a specific place and time to meet with Elohim. The worshippers must come to the place of worship on the right day and at the right time to reap the benefits of the meeting. Showing up at a different time or on the wrong day will not bring about the desired result - which is to meet with and hear from Elohim.
Also, Elohim has an obligation to be present to meet with those whom he has contracted with in Covenant. Not only must Elohim be present at these times, but he has also obligated Himself to perform certain events in the redemption during these appointments! Daniel teaches us that Messiah would come at an exact time and would die at an exact time (see Daniel 9)!
The New Testament details how these meetings with Elohim on these appointment days was fulfilled in the person and work of Yahusha the Messiah. Yahusha plainly told his disciples that his death had to occur at an appointed time:
He replied, "Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.'" (Matthew 26:18)
Yahusha was suggesting that the Pesach was His appointed time. And in fact, He was to die on the same day as the lambs were slaughtered at that Pesach!
Sha'ul (the apostle Paul) affirms that Yahusha came at the exact time he was supposed to:
But when the fullness of the time was come, Elohim sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law (Galatians 4:4).
Paul again confirms this, noting that
there is one Elohim and one mediator between Elohim and men, the man Messiah Yahusha, who gave himself as a ransom for all men-- the testimony given in its proper time. (1 Timothy 2:5,6)
The second coming of Yahusha to complete the redemption of his people and to bring about times of refreshing is also described as an appointment. In Acts 3:19-21, Peter describes this appointment as he explains,
Repent, then, and turn to Elohim, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you-- even Yahusha. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for Elohim to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.
The New Testament writers also describe the final Judgment as an appointment (an appointed time). First, in an episode when Yahusha was rebuking demons, the evil spirits acknowledge that Yahusha would deal with them at "the appointed time":
"What do you want with us, Son of Elohim?" they shouted. "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?" (Matthew 8:29)
And, Sha'ul told the men of Athens about the appointed day of judgment:
For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:31)
And regarding judgment, he instructed the believers at Corinth:
Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from Elohim. (1 Corinthians 4:5)
The annual appointed times clearly have a past, a present and a future purpose and fulfillment in the redemptive acts of the Messiah! (More about this to follow....)
One reason why I suggest that Christians should study and observe the feasts is that the biblical appointments are Elohim's appointments with his people, and these appointments were established at creation. You have heard that it has been said, "Elohim no longer requires the old rigid ways of ancient times when the Sabbath and Holy Days were observed by his people" But I would suggest to you that those set-apart days were established by Elohim during the creation week and still remain valid. Elohim wanted his people to worship him according to the pattern that he laid out at creation and illustrated through the annual set-apart days.
The first occurrence in the Scriptures of the word d[eAm (moed) is instructive. We find this word used way back in Genesis chapter one:
Then Elohim said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons (Hebrew, ~ydAmål.W , ulemoadim), and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth ";and it was so (Genesis 1:14, 15, NAS).
Elohim had planned into the creation of the world the use of the stars and planets to mark times and seasons. The movement of the sun, moon and stars were provided for this very reason. The Creator placed them in the sky as time markers. His appointed times were part of his plan for man even before man himself was created. Elohim placed the lights in the sky on the fourth day of creation to mark (among other things) his appointed times!
Thus, there is ample evidence that both the Old Testament holy days and the New Testament fulfillments of great prophetic themes share at least this one thing in common: they are both described by Scripture as appointments. And, in fact, they share more than just this one common point. Indeed, the moadim are an appointed vehicle to carry the message of the gospel. But not just a man made vehicle. The holy day celebrations are Elohim's ideal proclamations of the gospel!
A proper understanding of the biblical feasts must begin with a study of Hebrew terminology. The seven set-apart appointment days are said to be ~yid[eAm (moedim), which we saw above regarding the Sabbath day, means appointments or appointed times. Each of the moedim are also to be a set apart ar"q.mi (miqra), which means reading, proclamation. Thus, on each of the set-apart appointment days, a gathering of Yah's people is required for the purpose of reading and proclaiming the Scriptures. (More about this terminology below).
But neither of these Hebrew terms means feast or festival. There is a different word in the Hebrew language which means feast. That word is gx; (pronounced chag). The BDB Hebrew Lexicon defines this word as festival-gathering, feast, pilgrim-feast, pilgrimage. And the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament describes this word as procession, round dance, festival. The idea being described is a gathering of people in the place where Yahuwah puts his name for celebration (thus, "dance").
The word chag is used in the Torah in the following way:
Celebrate the Feast (Hebrew, gx) of Unleavened Bread; for seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in that month you came out of Mitzrayim. "No one is to appear before me empty-handed. Celebrate the Feast (Hebrew, gx) of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field. Celebrate the Feast (Hebrew, gx) of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field. Three times a year all the men are to appear before the Adonai Yahuwah. (Shemot 23:15-17)
These are the three annual feasts of Yahuwah. There are not seven feast, but only three. They are more commonly known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles.
The word gx; (feast) occurs 25 times in the Torah of Mosheh. Of those, 9 times it is a reference to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, 4 times it refers to the Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost) and 10 times it speaks of the Feast of Ingathering (Tabernacles). The other 2 occurrences of this word refer to a festival in general. It is clear, then, by the usage of the word gx; (feast) that it is not interchangeable with the word d[eAm or the word ar"q.m . The feasts of Yahuwah are three in number, not seven.
Again we see in Devarim 16:16 that 3 times a year the sons of Israel were to make a pilgrim journey and feast in Yerushalayim:
Three times a year all your men must appear before Yahuwah your Elohim at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before Yahuwah empty-handed. (Devarim 16:16)
The biblical feasts, which are 3 in number, are those appointed times when Yisrael gathers together in Yerushalayim for worship and celebration of Yahuwah, Creator and Redeemer.
The Messianic movement of modern day Christianity has endeavored to discover the Hebraic roots of Christianity in the Old Testament and in Jewish tradition. As part of this exploration of the Jewish roots of the Messianic faith, early Messianics surmised that there were seven festivals of the Messiah! These so-called 7 Festivals of the Messiah are still taught in most Messianic congregations as depicting the teaching of the Torah. They are summarized in the chart below:
However, I take exception to this teaching because it is wrong and misrepresents the real teaching of Scripture. The Torah does not teach anywhere that there were 7 Jewish festivals which the Messiah was to fulfill. Let the record be set straight. Bikkurim is not a festival. It is not even a set-apart appointment day. Yom Teruah is not a festival. It is a single day of observance. And Yom HaKippurim (day of Atonement) is not a feast day. In fact, it is just the opposite - it is a day of fasting. Thus, these so-called 7 Festivals of the Messiah are a false way of representing the Feasts and appointed days of the Torah.
The truth of the matter is that there are 7 set-apart appointment days, which do not correlate exactly with the so-called 7 Festivals of the Messiah. The chart earlier presents these 7 set-apart days. And it is also clear in the Torah that there were 3 (three) annual Festivals, not seven, as we pointed out above. The three biblical festivals are those in which all are required to travel to Yerushalayim to bring the tithes of the seasonal harvests to present before Yahuwah:
It is important that we who cling to Elohim and want to proclaim truth accurately represent the proclamation of Scripture. With this teaching of the so-called 7 Festivals of the Messiah, the reputation of the Messianic movement is damaged because those who simply read the Scriptures know that there are NOT 7 biblical Festivals. Thus, the rest of the teachings and proclamations of the Messianic movement are rightfully looked at with skepticism because of this misrepresentation of this Torah Instruction.
I would like to see those who are inspired by the moving of the Ruach HaKodesh, in these last days, to guard that which has been entrusted to them. And we must, thereby, protect the correct interpretation of the Scriptures. I call on all those involved in the Messianic Movement to abandon and repent of the false teaching of the 7 Festivals of the Messiah, and begin to accurately teach what the Torah teaches regarding the set-apart appointments and our Messiah Yahusha.
In a fascinating prophecy made by Daniel, we are told that the enemy of Elohim would attempt to alter the worship times which Elohim has established in his Word:
He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws (Daniel 7:25).
The word translated "set times" is the Aramaic equivalent to the Hebrew word, ~ydAm, ("mo-adim") which means "appointed times." The "set times" here described are the appointed times which Elohim set aside for special corporate worship for his people, Israel. And the "laws" refer to the Torah, which is usually translated as "law" but more accurately is rendered "instruction." These are those given by Elohim at Mt. Sinai.
What this prophesy is describing is a time when Elohim's appointed holy days and Sabbaths would be rejected by some figure of history, who would attempt to replace Elohim's special appointments and instructions with some of his own! And Yahusha told his disciples that the deception of the last days could even deceive the elect! We have been warned.
But this is precisely what has already happened to the Messianic Assembly which claims to be made up of followers of Yahusha the Messiah. In His Torah, Elohim meticulously described His Will regarding those appointed times which were to be set aside for worship of Him. Yet, shortly following the Messiah's ascent into heaven, and with the death of the first generation of those who knew him, the assembly, through misguided leadership and pagan pressures, allowed Elohim's appointments to be changed from Sabbath to Sunday, and from Passover to Easter, and from Tabernacles to Christmas! And they changed Elohim's Torah into another, more nebulous, "advice to believers." The church of today is already completely duped into accepting and cherishing the enemy's substitute worship days and instructions. The Christian churches claim these substitute days as their own and vigorously defend them to the death!
We must all return to our biblical roots. Only in the Scriptures can we find the truth about Elohim's will for worship. So, let us explore the meaning and intention of the Festivals which were given by Elohim through Mosheh to all of his people. In the Scriptures we will find that the Holy Days as explained in the Torah are not just a temporary institution for the Jewish people. They were to depict and illustrate for all of mankind in every generation the work of redemption which the Messiah would accomplish for all of his people. As such, Yahuwah commanded his people to proclaim these festival holy days:
Yahuwah spoke to Moshe, saying: Speak to my people Yisrael and say to them: These are My Appointed Times, the Appointed Times of Yahuwah, which you shall proclaim as sacred occasions. (Leviticus 23:1,2, DRV)
Accordingly, I would like to offer more reasons why Christians should study the biblical festivals and consider their relevance for today. Elohim wants us to proclaim these festival seasons, and the truths that they depict, loud and clear.
Another reason why I suggest that Christians should study and observe the appointed times is that the Scriptural appointments are all about the Messiah! The set-apart times are harbingers (shadows) foretelling of the redemptive acts which Messiah was to perform for his people.
You have heard that it has been said, "The feasts were for ancient Israel. They reminded Israel of Elohim's mighty hand working for them" But I would suggest to you that there is much more to those old festivals and set-apart days than just what the Almighty did for ancient Israel. Yes, they were given to Israel, and yes, the festivals taught and reminded Israel of Elohim's mighty hand working on their behalf. The appointed times held a great deal of meaning for the Israelites of old. It speaks to their history. It told of the wonderful acts of Elohim performed on their behalf. It even told of their future.
But most Christian denominations firmly contend that the usefulness of the feasts ended at the death of Messiah. "They were nailed to the cross," they say! "They are no longer relevant for the life of the New Testament church. They are part of the old covenant which has been done away with and replaced by the New." Can this be? Could this be right? Hardly! As a matter of fact, the Feasts are more relevant to the life of the New Testament church than they ever were to the life of the ancient Israelites.
Many of the Old Testament ethical mandates ("do not kill," "do not commit adultery," etc.) which are repeated in the New Testament were also linked to that old sacrificial system. But their connection to the sacrificial system does not negate their relevance for today, does it? We must apply this same thought process to the Holy Days. In his earlier writings on the Sabbath (From Sabbath to Sunday, divine Rest for human Restlessness, The Sabbath in the New Testament), Samuele Bachiocchi had suggested that the feasts were done away with because of their connection with the Levitical system. But in a recent publication, God's Festivals in Scripture and History, Vol. 1, p.13, Bachiocchi describes his change of mind when he investigated the biblical feasts for himself:
A fourth surprise was to discover that I was wrong in assuming that the annual Feasts came to an end with the sacrifice of Christ, simply because they were connected with the sacrificial system of the Temple. I came to realize that the continuity or discontinuity of the Feasts is determined not by their connection with the sacrificial system, but by the scope of their typology. If the Feasts had typified only the redemptive accomplishments of Christ's first Advent, then obviously their function would have terminated at the Cross. But, if the Feasts foreshadow also the consummation of redemption to be accomplished by Christ at His second Advent, then their function continues in the Christian church, though with a new meaning and manner of observance.
The moadim are not terminated just because they were connected to the sacrificial system just because the writer of Hebrews tells us of that which is "obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear" (Hebrews 8:13). We must, as Bacchiocchi did, determine the relevance (continuity) of the moadim based upon their purpose, meaning and their fulfillment.
It is plain to see that there is a great deal more fulfillment to take place of those things which the Appointments foreshadow. These days are, indeed, a shadow or foreshadow of things yet to come! Bachiocchi continues:
It came as a pleasant surprise to discover that the typology and function of the Feasts reach beyond the Cross to the ultimate consummation of redemption. The typology of Passover, for example, was initially fulfilled when Christ, the true Paschal Lamb, was sacrificed to deliver us from the bondage of sin. Yet there is still a future and ultimate fulfillment of Passover at the End, when Christ will deliver His people from the great tribulation and invite them to participate in "the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Rev 19:9). Christ Himself pointed to this future fulfillment of Passover when He said: "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God" (Luke 22:16). In this statement Christ makes it clear that the ultimate fulfillment of Passover will be at the End with the establishment of God's kingdom.
The Day of the Trumpet Blast has a future fulfillment in the coming (parousia) of the Messiah. The Day of Atonement has a future fulfillment in Elohim's judgment of the world. And the Feast of Tabernacles has a future fulfillment in the kingdom of the Messiah on the earth. In other words, the appointed days have not been discontinued! All of them still have meaning for the present and most of them have a fulfillment in the future!
In fact, what the Israelites understood by the annual appointments was only part of their purpose and meaning! The primary meaning of the moadim pertains to the redemptive work of the Messiah for the salvation of his people! And this work is not yet completed. Please do not misunderstand. What the Messiah accomplished on the tree is complete in itself, that is, it is all one needs to find complete forgiveness of sins and to find a restored relationship with Elohim. But salvation is not yet complete until the Messiah returns, raises the dead, establishes his kingdom of righteousness and restores creation. So it is fair to say that the Messiah's work of redemption is not yet complete.
The appointed times were established by Elohim (not by Mosheh) to teach and remind His assembled people about his redemptive acts - both those accomplished in Mitzrayim (Egypt) and those performed and accomplished by the Messiah. The spring and fall festival seasons depict the two advents of the Messiah. The spring feast pictured the Messiah's accomplishments at his first coming. And the autumn appointments depict the yet unfinished accomplishments of redemption which will soon take place at his second coming!
Did the Israelites understand these things? I think not! They couldn't have! Most of them didn't even understand that Yahusha would come the first time to suffer and die for the sins of his people. They completely misunderstood the purpose of his first coming. Many were welcoming him to Jerusalem as their Deliverer and King, while Yahusha was coming to sacrifice his life to become their Savior and Redeemer.
Thus, the Israelis then and today, do not fully understand the meaning and pictures of the set apart days. Only those who recognize Yahusha of Nazareth as the Messiah of prophesy can understand that the appointments, thousands of years in advance, depicted the work of the Messiah in its two phases.
The following chart summarizes the primary meaning of the events surrounding the appointed days. It illustrates Elohim's work of redemption through the Messiah for those who place their faith in him:
The Israelites could not possibly have understood all that the set apart days indicated about the redemptive accomplishments of Yahusha! These things were not understood until the New Testament writers illuminated their meaning. So, the biblical appointments, which are all about our Savior, must have been given, not just for ancient Israel, but to us, so that we, the congregation of Israel who recognizes the Messiah Yahusha, would understand Elohim's plan to provide redemption for the world.
Still another reason why I suggest that Christians should study and observe the Appointments of Yahuwah is that the observance of each of these biblical set-apart appointments is a rehearsal of those events which the Messiah will bring to fulfillment. You have heard that it has been said, "Yahusha fulfilled the event which the Passover foreshadowed when he laid down his life on the tree at Passover" But I would suggest to you that Elohim's plan for the feasts is to fulfill all of his great promises of the redemption on the very appointed set-apart days which depict those promises!
Again, Leviticus 23 describes the festival holy days:
Yahuwah said to Mosheh, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'The appointments of Yahuwah, which you are to proclaim as set-apart proclamations. These are my appointments. There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of complete rest, a set-apart proclamation. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to Yahuwah. These are the appointments of Yahuwah - set-apart proclamations which you are to proclaim at their appointed times'"
Mosheh utilizes the Hebrew word ar"q.mi (miqra) to describe these feast days. In the passage above, the words which are translated from ar"q.mi (miqra) are underlined. Strong's Concordance (#4744) lists the following words as appropriate translations of the Hebrew word ar"q.mi (miqra), "holy convocation, rehearsal, assembly."
Some translators chose to call the appointed days "assemblies." But they could have translated this as "rehearsals." These terms are close in meaning. And "rehearsals" does precisely convey one of the purposes of the assembling of Elohim's people at these appointed feasts. For these "assemblies" were done with a view to the historical (future) fulfillment of those events which these assemblies depicted.
For example, the first and last days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread were to be regarded as ar"q.mi (miqra):
On the first day you shall have a holy assembly, and another holy assembly on the seventh day; no work at all shall be done on them, except what must be eaten by every person, that alone may be prepared by you. (Exodus 12:16 NAS)
Yet, the sacrifice of the lamb at sundown of Passover was not the "main performance" (if you will allow me this illustration.) This sacrifice of a lamb at Passover was only an annual rehearsal of a greater Passover Lamb. The main performance itself was the sacrifice of the Lamb of Elohim at Calvary.
The day of the waving of the new grain offering is not a ar"q.mi (miqra). The waving of the barley sheaf to Elohim as an offering of the firstfruits of the harvest on the first day of the week was only a rehearsal of that day when the Messiah would become the firstfruits of the resurrection. We are told that the resurrection of the Messiah is the fulfillment of the firstfruits type:
But Messiah has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.... But each in his own turn: Messiah, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him... (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23).
The Festival of Shavuot (a.k.a. Pentecost) is a ar"q.mi (miqra). The Israelites assembled on the first Shavuot to receive from Elohim his Torah. Every Shavuot thereafter, the people assembled to remember the giving of the Law. But they did not understand that Elohim had another thing in mind. The people were also assembling as a rehearsal for the day when on Shavuot, Elohim would send his Holy Spirit to indwell every believer and empower each one of them to obey that Law which He gave them two thousand years earlier!
Likewise, the blowing of the trumpets on the first day of the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar is a ar"q.mi (miqra) to rehearse the day when the the trumpet blasts will announce the arrival of Messiah from heaven on the clouds. The words of the Messiah on this topic are perfectly in line with the concept of Trumpets being a ar"q.mi (miqra). (More on this point in The Truth About the Feast of Trumpets). So, the keeping of the Day of Trumpets truly is a rehearsal and celebration of that soon coming day of the Messiah's return from heaven at the sounding of the great trumpet!
Furthermore, the cleansing of the earthly temple on the Day of Atonement was only a rehearsal of that Great Day of Atonement when Elohim will cleanse the earth of all sin. This great Judgment Day will see all sin eradicated and Satan judged and bound.
And lastly, the first and eighth days of the Festival of Booths (or Tabernacles) is a sacred ar"q.mi (miqra) depicting the kingdom age and rehearsing when the Messiah will tabernacle with men after he has eradicated sin from all the earth. Eddie Chumney, a well-known Messianic teacher, concludes that
from this we can see that Elohim gave the festivals to be yearly 'rehearsals' of the future events in the redemption. Because God gave the 'rehearsals' to teach us about the major events in the redemption, if we want to understand the major events in the redemption, then we need to understand what God was teaching us by these rehearsals. (The Seven Festivals of the Messiah, chapter 2)
So, let us go on to explore the deeper meaning of these rehearsals so that we may more fully understand Elohim's plan for the completion of redemption.
Yet another reason why I suggest that Christians should study and observe the annual appointments is that they are a shadow of the Messiah and blueprints of the future. You have heard that it has been said, "Paul called the Feasts 'a shadow.' Since the reality is the Messiah, then we no longer need the shadows." But I would suggest to you that this is all the more reason why we should study and observe the moadim: because they depict the work of the Messiah on our behalf and are blueprints of his future work for us.
Sha'ul (Paul) said that the moadim were a shadow of things to come:
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Messiah (Colossians 2:16,17).
This text has been misinterpreted by many writers and preachers for way too long. It is time to set the record straight.
The Colossians text does not state that Christians are to stop celebrating Feast Days. Let me repeat: there is nothing in the context of the above text which would suggest that Paul wants the Colossians to stop observing the festivals. On the contrary, Paul is telling the Colossian believers (and us) not to take to heart any criticism from anyone who would try to tell them how to conduct themselves with regard to these celebrations.
Paul was dealing with a situation similar to that which the Messiah dealt with. Yahusha had to rebuke the Pharisees and rulers of the people on several occasions for their unnecessarily strict and man-made interpretations regarding the particulars for keeping the Sabbath day holy. They had made up a long list of their own set of rules about how the Sabbaths were to be lived. But the Messiah was not going to be ruled by their man made rules and regulations. Yahusha kept the Sabbaths in accordance with the teaching of the Torah.
In Colosse, Paul was dealing with another confrontation with Judaizers (Sadducees and Pharisees) regarding the particulars of how these holy days were to be observed. So Paul exhorts the believers not to be pushed around by those who would try to impose their man-made restrictions regarding the celebration of Elohim's Holy Days. The reality or substance of these Elohim-given institutions is the Messiah. Another way to say what Sha'ul was writing is to say, "You should celebrate these according to their true meaning in Yahusha the Messiah."
Furthermore, the fact that the religious holy days are shadows does not imply that they were to be ignored. On the contrary, they are practical lessons of faith in the Messiah. They are significant object lessons for our life in the Messiah. They point to the work of the Messiah on our behalf. Messiah fulfilled the Passover "shadow" by his death on the tree as the lamb of Elohim. Messiah fulfilled the Firstfruits "shadow" by his resurrection from the dead. And Messiah fulfilled the Pentecost "shadow" by sending his Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts by faith.
The fall holy days also "shadow" future events in the redemption. As such, these "shadows" serve as blueprints of the future. A blueprint is a proposal, drawing, design, draft or outline of another reality, but not the reality itself. An architect uses the details of a blueprint to construct the reality which it depicts. He would not destroy or throw away the blueprint before the project was completed! That would defeat the purpose of drawing the blueprint. It is a reference point for the completion of the project.
In the same way, Elohim has given us a blueprint of the future. These blueprints are a design, outline and draft of the work of the Messiah, but they are not the reality themselves. The Holy Days depict his plan for the redemption of mankind. They serve as "shadows" or "blueprints" for the redemption. They act as reminders and object lessons to the believer of the work which the Messiah will soon perform on our behalf. As such, why would Elohim have established these blueprints and shadows to reveal to his own what He has planned for them, only to discard their use before the plan was finished?! This is absurd.
Indeed, the Appointment Days are not the realities to which they point. Yahusha and His work of redemption are the reality. But Elohim has established these "shadows" to point us to the Messiah. Just as the Messiah exhorted his disciples to keep the Passover, the partaking of the unleavened bread and wine, with his work on the tree in view, Paul's exhortation to the Colossians is a reminder to them (and us) that the festivals are to be kept with the Messiah as the object and focus of their observance.
A fifth reason why I suggest that Christians should study and observe the holy days is that the people of the New Testament continued to observe them. You have heard that it has been said, "If it's good enough for Yahusha and his apostles, it's good enough for me." But I would suggest to you that since Yahusha and his New Testament followers observed the annual appointed times, then we should do so also!
The New Testament writers do not make a big deal of Yahusha observing the Festivals. For them, it is a given - the framework around which the miracles and teachings of the Messiah are hung. As one who was obedient in every point, it should not surprise us that Yahusha kept the Sabbath Day and the Appointed Times according to the Law. So, it should not surprise us that the NT writers do not make an issue of his keeping the Feasts. The Feasts actually become part of the background, and serve as the setting for his teaching and preaching.
The gospel of John makes the most frequent mention of the Messiah's observance of the Sabbath and the Feasts. Yahusha rested on the Sabbath:
"For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." (Matthew 12:8)
They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Yahusha went into the synagogue and began to teach (Mark 1:21).
When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. "Where did this man get these things?" they asked. "What's this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! (Mark 6:2).
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read (Luke 4:16).
Yahusha kept the Passover:
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Yahusha went up to Jerusalem. (John 2:13)
Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. (John 2:23)
Six days before the Passover, Yahusha arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Yahusha had raised from the dead. (John 12:1)
He replied, "Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.'" So the disciples did as Yahusha had directed them and prepared the Passover. (Matthew 26:18,19)
Yahusha observed the Feast of Tabernacles:
But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, Yahusha' brothers said to him, "You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do.... However, after his brothers had left for the Feast, he went also, not publicly, but in secret.
Yahusha went to another unidentified Feast:
Some time later, Yahusha went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. (John 5:1)
Paul and the other early Christians also kept the Appointments. We can presume that they did based on the passing references to them, especially in the book of Acts. They kept Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread:
When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. (Acts 12:3,4)
But we sailed from Philippi after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days. (Acts 20:6)
They kept Shavuot (Pentecost):
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. (Acts 2:1)
Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost. (Acts 20:16)
But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me. (1 Corinthians 16:8, 9)
They observed the Day of Atonement. "The Fast" is a common reference to Atonement:
Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Fast. (Acts 27:9)
Not only did the disciples of the Messiah keep the annual holy days, but Scripture also indicates that the Feast of Tabernacles, and all the other Feasts by inference, will be kept by these same disciples during the kingdom reign of Messiah on the earth::
Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, Yahuwah Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. (Zechariah 14:16 )
Why are there so many references to the moadim in the New Testament? This record implies that the Christians kept both Sabbath and the annual set apart days! Although the references are vague, they imply that the New Testament believers still were regulated by the biblical calendar. The mention of these Feasts as calendar references, and the lack of any controversy regarding the keeping of these holy days, establishes strong evidence that the first century Christians kept these days as a part of their faith living.
The sixth reason why I suggest that Christians should study and observe the Meeting Days is that Yahusha and his apostles exhort us to observe these times to Yahuwah. You have heard that it has been said, "Yahusha never commanded the New Testament church to keep the Sabbath or observe the feasts." But I would suggest to you that Yahusha did not command his disciples to keep these holy days because they were already doing so. He merely needed to focus their attention on Him as the fulfiller of these Festival Sabbaths.
Yahusha exhorted his disciples to celebrate the Passover with Him as the focus of the event. The sacrifice of His life was the fulfillment of the typical sacrifice of the lamb at Passover. Paul explains what Yahusha said to his disciples that last Passover evening they spent together:
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Yahusha, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
The words of Yahusha here indicate, not the celebration of a new thing, as it were. But, in the context of Passover, at which time he was eating unleavened bread and wine with his disciples, the Messiah encourages his followers to eat that same bread and drink that same wine as a remembrance of Him as the central theme of that bread and wine.
Paul also admonishes believers to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread:
Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast-- as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 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. (1 Corinthians 5:7,8)
Paul's rebuke of the Corinthians was with regard to the wickedness of the lifestyle which they approved. So, he borrowed the example of unleavened bread to illustrate what the Feast should be teaching believers. The bread without yeast portrays the believer getting sin out of his life.
In fact, Paul uses this illustration of unleavened bread because the Corinthians were so familiar with it. And why were they so familiar with it? Obviously, because they were in the habit of regularly observing Passover and remembering the Lord's death at that time of year.
Even Ellen White (though not a New Testament writer) recommends that Seventh Day Adventists should keep the Feast of Tabernacles. In her book Patriarchs and Prophets, White devotes a whole chapter to "The Annual Feasts." Reflecting on their value for the Israelites and their relevance for Christians today, she writes:
...well would it be for the people of God at the present time to have a Feast of Tabernacles-a joyous commemoration of the blessings of God to them. As the children of Israel celebrated the deliverance that God had wrought for their fathers, and His miraculous preservation of them during their journeying from Egypt, so should we gratefully call to mind the various ways He has devised for bringing us out from the world, and from the darkness of error, into the precious light of His grace and truth.
Although it is clear that she did not have a full understanding of the meaning and present applicability of the Holy Festivals, Ellen White seems, in the statement above, to recommend to the church today the observance of the Feast of Tabernacles.
Since Yahusha and the apostle Paul exhort believers to keep the Messiah in view at the Passover, isn't it clear that they presumed that believers would have to be keeping that Festival first? In order for the exhortation to focus on the Messiah in the keeping of this Feast to make sense, it must have been a given that they would be celebrating it. Surely, the message here is clear: The believer should observe the annual Holy Days. And while they are doing this, they should remember to keep the Messiah in the center of and as the focus of their celebrations.
The seventh reason why I suggest that Christians should study and observe the holy days is that they provide an appropriate platform for worship. You have heard that it has been said, "Trying to celebrate the Old Testament festivals would only confuse people and cause divisions and strife in the church" But I would suggest to you that while some people will reject change and reform, so many more people will embrace this rediscovered truth and grow in Elohim's favor because of it.
Rather than trying to find more meaningful worship by random changes in the worship service, the holy days of the Bible suggest centering the themes of our worship around the redemptive acts of Yahusha. What better way to remember the Lord's death than to do so on the anniversary of that event- on Passover itself. By participating in the same setting, including the Seder, the Festival of Unleavened Bread can be a meaningful and impacting way to remember our Lord's self-sacrifice and our subsequent need of a sanctified life - to repent of sinful habits and by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit begin to obey the commandments of the Torah.
Pentecost can be a wonderful setting for a study and celebration of Elohim's Law and the character of Elohim which He wants to implant within each of His own. This leads naturally to a study of the giving of the Holy Spirit who enables believers to obey the law of the Messiah. The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) offers an opportunity to rediscover the power of Elohim, made available to those who place their faith in the Messiah, to live a sanctified life. And this festival season presents the natural setting for a study of spiritual gifts and their practical value in the congregation.
The Day of Trumpets should be the time on the worship calendar when the Messiah's second coming is studied and anticipated. It is a rehearsal of the second advent of our soon coming Lord Yahusha. The Abrahamic Covenant and the promises made to all of his seed should be one of the themes to be investigated at this time. And resurrection and eternal life can be emphasized and remembered, as well.
The Day of Atonement should be a very solemn day and a time of sober self-examination. This should be our annual church fast. Stress should be placed on repentance in view of the day when the Messiah will obliterate sin from his people and bind Satan. The righteous judgment of Elohim and the gravity of sin should be examined with an emphasis on the need to live a godly life.
And finally, the Feast of Tabernacles should be a week-long and glorious celebration of our future home with the Messiah on the New (renovated) Earth. We should schedule our annual church retreat during this festival and live in tents and other temporary shelters to drive home the aspect of Elohim tabernacling with us forever in human flesh. During this week long festival, we should recount and remember the Messiah's birth in a tabernacle in Bethlehem during this Feast nearly two thousand years ago. It is a time of great joy and celebration - the high point of the year. All members of the church should be encouraged to schedule their vacations at this time so that all may participate together in and look forward to the joyous future we have been promised with the Messiah.
If it is important to us that our own worship practices be modeled after the first century church, then we must bring back the biblical festivals and make them a central focus of our annual church calendars. Let's follow the advise and example of these great ones who came before us by observing and celebrating, with our Lord, the appointment days which depict his wonderful acts of salvation, both past and future.
The annual Sabbaths have a great purpose. They were given to keep Elohim's children in the true memory and worship of Elohim by keeping us constantly in the understanding of Elohim's great plan of redemption. For these annual days picture the different periods of time in which Elohim will accomplish his great work of saving his people. The annual festivals picture, in one sweeping view, all that Elohim was to do in history to bring about the restoration of his once perfect creation.
The annual appointed days are all about the Messiah. And when we observe them, Elohim's redeemed people are confirming the New Covenant which Yahusha instituted. And we are giving testimony to the world of the gospel story of the promise of eternal life to any and all who will place their faith in the person of the Messiah and in his redemptive work on the tree. And we are being obedient to the Elohim we serve, who commanded all his people to set these days apart and observe them throughout all our generations.