Shadows of Things
There were seven religious ceremonies that were observed each year by the Israelites. These feasts "which are a shadow of things to come" (Colossians 2:17), are illustrations symbolizing the work of Christ in the plan of salvation. They are shadows cast by heavenly realities. The yearly cycle of Jewish festivals is an outline, a chronological picture, of the events in the entire plan of salvation. They are a condensed prophecy of the gospel.
There were four feast days in the spring—Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, Offering of First Fruits and Pentecost. These four foreshadow events at the beginning of the Christian era. In the fall there were three feasts—Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement and Feast of Tabernacles. These represent events at the end of the Christian era. Let's look at the reality behind each of these prophetic shadows.
The Passover was the first in the yearly round of services; it was celebrated the fourteenth day of the first month of the Jewish calendar—March and April of our modern Gregorian calendars. The Passover was both commemorative and typical. It pointed backward to the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, but more notably it pointed forward to the death of Christ on the cross. The Bible clearly indicates that the slain sacrificial lamb represented Jesus. John the Baptist introduced Him saying, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). And the apostle Paul states, "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us" (1 Corinthians 5:7).
Christ was crucified on Passover day, the "actual" Passover day. His death as the Passover Lamb was the reality to which this service had been a shadow for so many years. The actual redemption of man was initiated when Christ died on the cross.
FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD
The second feast in the spring was the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It started the day after Passover and was seven days long. The first day of this festival was a ceremonial sabbath, a day of rest.
Christ was crucified on a Friday. The next day, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, fell on the weekly seventh-day Sabbath that year, making it a High Sabbath. Christ rested in the tomb on the Sabbath day after His death. Just as He rested from His work of creation in the beginning by blessing the Sabbath and making it holy, so He renewed and magnified it even more by resting on the Sabbath after His work of redemption.
OFFERING OF FIRST FRUITS
The second day of the feast of Unleavened Bread was called the Day of the Wave Sheaf or the Offering of First Fruits. It was just prior to the spring harvest and some of the grain was already ripe. The priest would take a handful of ripened grain into the sanctuary and wave it before the Lord. This first handful of grain was a pledge showing thanks and praise for the coming bountiful harvest.
The Sunday after Passover, the day of the Offering of First Fruits, Christ rose from the dead. As the apostle Paul says, "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept" (I Corinthians 15:20). And as the priest waved a handful of grain before the Lord, not just one kernel, so there were others resurrected as part of the firstfruits. "And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many" (Matthew 27:52, 53).
The third spring feast was Pentecost—also known as the Feast of Weeks or the Feast of Harvest. It came fifty days after the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This ceremony celebrated the completion of the spring harvest.
In fulfillment of this feast the preaching of the disciples on the day of Pentecost resulted in a great harvest—3,000 souls in one day, which were the fruits of Christ's ministry.
FEAST OF TRUMPETS
Just as the spring feasts open the Jewish year, representing the beginning of the Christian era, so the fall feasts close the year and represent the end of the Christian era.
The Feast of Trumpets came ten days before the Day of Atonement. It was one day set aside for the blowing of trumpets throughout all Israel. When the people heard the trumpets, they knew that the great, solemn Day of Atonement was coming.
In the fulfillment, then, we should expect a message of coming judgment to be given in every corner of the earth. Beginning approximately ten years before 1844, just such a message was given. Dr. Joseph Wolff, "Missionary to the World," preached the message in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Edward Irving ignited the message in the British Isles. Manuel De Lacunza authored a book on the subject that went all over South America. And Baptist William Miller spread the word in the United States. These men preached the cleansing of the sanctuary, and that the hour of judgment was come. Historians refer to this time as the "Great Awakening" because of the religious revival that swept the world.
DAY OF ATONEMENT
This was the most important and solemn of all the Jewish festivals. It was a time of investigation and judgment—a time when the people were to be completely separated from all sin through the blood of the sacrifice. Those who refused to take part in the service were cut off from among the people. All sin had to be removed whether or not there were people still attached to those sins.
The Great Day of Atonement, to which this service points forward, started in 1844 at the culmination of the 2,300 day prophecy of Daniel 8:14. We are living right now in "the great day of judgment." At the end of this "day of judgment" every person who has ever lived will either be separated from their sins or separated from God's people; the universe will be completely cleansed of all sin.
FEAST OF TABERNACLES
The last ceremony of the year, this festival was also known as the Feast of Ingathering. It began five days after the Day of Atonement, and was a celebration of both their acceptance with God and the bounties of the harvest.
It pointed forward to the second coming when all God's redeemed will be gathered in heaven for the great celebration, the marriage supper of the Lamb. "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come... Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Revelation 19:7,9).
They will rejoice in God's triumph, and the cleansing of sin from the universe. They will delight in their own salvation and in the vast multitude of the redeemed, the purchase of Christ's blood, the harvest of all the earth. And every voice in the whole universe will unite in joyful praise to God.