Leviticus 23 presents a chronological overview of the prophetic plan of God. Using types, it presents a historical/prophetic overview of Israel from the Exodus through the endtimes; an endtime fulfillment for Israel and the world; the personal works of Jesus in our redemption; and a prophetic plan involving the fulfillment of those works in the church.
Lev. 23:2 says, "Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts."
The word feast or feasts is used nine times in this chapter. Of those usages, four are translated from the Hebrew word chag (meaning festival - used of Unleavened Bread and Tabernacles, i.e. multiple day observances), and five are translated from the word moed (used in the plural and referring to all the holy days). Moed is defined as: appointment, a fixed time or season. So we see right at the beginning that the seven feasts of Jehovah in Lev. 23 are appointments that he will keep with mankind at a fixed time, and we see the word season again in the definition of moed. This is the same as the Greek kairos (I Thes. 5:1 "but of the times and seasonsÖ), defined as occasion, set time or season. Because, as we shall see, Jesus was the fulfillment of some of these moeds, he must also be the fulfillment of those that remain. This means these moeds are prophecies of the redemptive works of Jesus. By comparing the fulfillment of these moeds in Israel, in the world, by Jesus and in the church, we also find that each has a theme.
Lev. 23:3 says, "Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings." The sabbath that the whole world is longing for and that Christians are looking for is the one thousand years millennial reign of Jesus. There is also a spiritual sabbath that is to be kept by Christians, but it is not a specific day of the week, it is a sabbath life. Very simply, the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Wages are paid for work, death is the wage of sin, therefore sin is work. Christians are to stop doing their own works and do the works of God, i.e. cease from sin, determine his will for our lives and live accordingly.
Lev. 23:4 says, "these are the feasts (moeds - appointments) of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons." Hereís the word seasons again. Israel was to proclaim these seasonal appointments each year by special observances. The moeds are actually rehearsals of events that were and are to be fulfilled by Jesus. It is interesting to note that the church also memorializes those moeds which have already been fulfilled.
The first moed is Passover and its theme is death. Lev. 23:5 says, "In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORDís passover." There are four New Years in the Jewish calendar, the two most important being the sacred new year observed on the first of Nisan (this is the 'first month' referenced in this verse) and the civil new year observed on the first of Tishri. Nisan always falls in the spring and Tishri is always in the fall. Because of calendar manipulation, Passover doesnít usually coincide with Easter.
While Passover commemorates the Lord passing over the houses of the Israelites when the first born of Egypt died, it was also prophetic of the death of Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God, for the sins of the whole world. I Cor. 5:7 says, "Christ our passover is sacrificed for us."
When we appropriate the blood of Jesus shed for us, our old spirit, which is alive in spiritual death (separation from God) is killed. II Cor. 5:14-17 says, "For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." The word creature is better translated as creation. This passage is actually stating that a saved person is a recreated person. Since it is not our body that is recreated, and since our minds still need to be renewed, the part of our triune being that is recreated is our spirit. In order to be REcreated, that old spirit must first die. This is the death that all Christians experience at the moment of salvation. The old spiritually dead (separated from God) spirit is destroyed and recreated, holy and pure, when a person accepts the sacrifice of the blood of Jesus for his sins.
Because Jesus has kept this appointment, we Christians have passed from death into life and we remember it when we take the communion cup.
In Lev. 23:6-8 we see the second moed: the feast of Unleavened Bread, and its theme is cleansing. In scripture, leaven represents false doctrine (Matt. 16:12) and hypocrisy (Luke 12:1). In Judaism this moed begins with Passover and lasts seven days, and it commemorates that the Jews ate unleavened bread when they left Egypt. I Cor. 5:8 says, "Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which in Hebrew is defined as: house of bread. He is the fulfillment of the feast of Unleavened Bread, the perfect sacrifice, because there was no false doctrine, hypocrisy, malice or wickedness in him. He Col. 2:9 says, "For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the godhead bodily." That body lay in a tomb for three days. In like manner, we Christians are to be as dead to sin as Israel was to be dead to the things of Egypt, i.e. the life they irrevocably left behind as they went through the Red Sea. While we Christians are not yet perfected, we are made part of the body of Christ at the moment we believe and have been provided with forgiveness of sins when we confess them, and further, with cleansing from all unrighteousness (those things that are not pleasing to God that we are not aware of) I John 1:9. Jesus is the bread from heaven (John 6:32-51) and we remember that he kept this moed when we take the communion bread.
The third moed was to be observed on the day after the sabbath, or on Sunday, during the feast of Unleavened Bread. For Israel, this moed commemorates their emergence out of the Red Sea. This moed was fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus. I Cor. 15:20 states that Christ is the firstfruits of the resurrection, and verses 12-19 teach that his resurrection guarantees ours. Christians keep this moed in the act of salvation and it is memorialized in baptism. Rom. 6:4 says, "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."
These first three moeds are observed in the spring. Both Israel and Jesus kept these moeds over a period of three days, but in the church they have a simultaneous fulfillment on an individual basis. At the moment of salvation the Christian receives the sacrifice of the blood of Jesus, he is cleansed from all sin up to that point, and his old spirit dies and resurrected to walk in newness of life. All of mankind is called of God to keep these moeds. Those who don't, like Pharaoh, will find themselves immersed in a Ďseaí, the lake of fire, and like Pharaoh, they will experience death: the second death.
The fourth moed is Pentecost, which was to be observed in the summer, fifty days after Firstfruits, and its theme is covenant. This moed stands alone between the spring and fall moeds, and it is the one that the people of God are to live in. This feast commemorated the calling out of the covenant people of God, the Jews, on the first Pentecost in Ex. 19. It also was prophetic of the calling out of the church. Jesus fulfilled this feast by pouring out the Holy Spirit as recorded in Acts 2. We observe it when we receive the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
Lev. 23 was given after the fulfillment in Israel of the first four moeds, close to the beginning of the forty years in the wilderness. During this time they did not enter the land. In the same way, there is a gap of (to date) 1975 years between the fourth and fifth moeds as fulfilled by Jesus and in the church. During this time we Christians have looked forward to inhabiting our heavenly city just as Israel looked forward to inhabiting the land of Canaan. While a partial fulfillment of these moeds is a historical fact for Israel, there is yet to come an endtimes fulfillment for them.
Just as the first three moeds are fulfilled simultaneously for each individual Christian, so will be the last three, and further, they will also be fulfilled simultaneously for the corporate body of Christ.
The fifth moed, and the next one to be fulfilled, is the feast of Trumpets. Lev 23:23-25 says, "And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 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, an holy convocation. Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD."
The moed of Trumpets was a memorial feast, remembering the events that occurred in Ex. 19, the only significant trumpet prior to that time. The theme of Trumpets is remembrance because it is a time when God remembers his covenants with his people. Because we see trumpets in rapture passages such as I Thes. 4:16, I Cor. 15:52 and Rev. 4:1, it has been thought by many that the fulfillment of this moed which is of greatest significance to Christians could only be the resurrection/rapture of the covenant people of God: all of them, Jew and Gentile together; those who are accounted righteous by faith under both the Old and New Covenants. Both historically for Israel and prophetically for the church, there is a connection between Pentecost and Trumpets and that connection is covenant. None of the covenant people will be left behind.
But historically, Israel also had a very significant WEEK of blowing trumpets. In Joshua 6 we find the story of the beginning of Israelís conquest of Canaan. The people were told to march in silence around Jericho once each day for six days while the priests blew trumpets. On the seventh day they were to march around seven times while the trumpets sounded, and when the command was given they were to shout. When they did, the walls of Jericho fell down and the city was taken. That was the opening event in Israelís conquest of Canaan and it was a significant WEEK of blowing of trumpets.
I happen to be one of those who think the rapture could occur on Pentecost or Rosh Hashanah. The moed of Trumpets can be fulfilled in the rapture or the second advent (or both). Speaking of the second advent, Matt. 24:23 states that Jesus will "send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." This is a significant trumpet and it occurs at the end of a period described as one week. Further, just as the first three moeds were fulfilled within a single year, ending with Pentecost which is a continuing moed, it is likely that the last three will also be fulfilled within a single year, ending in Tabernacles which will continue for one thousand years.
According to I Thes. 4:16 the trump of God will sound at the rapture, and I Cor. 15:52 calls this trumpet the 'last trump'. I believe it is the last trumpet of a set of two trumpets. The trumpet in Exo. 19 (the first trumpet) summoned Moses up to the top of the mountain, and the last trumpet will summon the people of God to meet the Lord Jesus in the air.
The first four moeds of Lev. 23 were fulfilled by Jesus in a period of sixty days in 30 A.D. - one right after another in the same year. These moeds were principally for the Jews under the law, and because as a people they are still under the law, they also still observe these days. As was stated above, the moeds also have a fulfillment in the lives of individual Christians, and we also commemorate these days, but in a new, spiritual manner. More about this after we look at the remaining two moeds.
The sixth moed is Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, and its theme is judgment. In reading Lev. 23:26-32 the importance of keeping Sabbath is stressed. In the New Testament a Sabbath rest is promised to the people of God. We learn from Rom. 6:23 that the wages of sin is death. From this simple statement we see that wages are paid for work performed, sin is work and its wage is death. Through salvation, Christians are called to stop doing their own works and to start doing the works of God. To do this is to enter into the Sabbath rest promised in such scriptures as Matt. 11:28-30 and Heb. 4:11.
Historically Yom Kippur was fulfilled in Israel by the Babylonian captivity which signaled the beginning of the times, or years, of the Gentiles. At the beginning of this time period, which would not end for 2550 years, the Jewish people lost the land of Israel and their holy city, Jerusalem. There is a yet future fulfillment in the tribulation, particularly in the second advent of Jesus. Godís judgment is going to fall on those who reject Jesus Christ.
On the Day of Atonement, Israelís sins either were or were not forgiven. Those who are unsaved at the second advent will be relying on their own works for salvation. This is very hazardous: most of them will be destroyed, including everyone who has worshiped the beast and received his mark. Those who did not take this mark, yet also did not receive Jesus, will attend the sheep and goats judgment of Matt. 25:31-46. The Day of Atonement judgment will be fulfilled in the second advent of Jesus.
But the church also has a judgment to come, although not a judgment between life or death, heaven or hell. Each Christian will experience the judgment of his works. This judgment, which will occur in conjunction with the rapture, will be treated in more detail in a later section.
The seventh and last moed in Lev. 23 is the feast of Tabernacles, also known as Succoth, and its theme is new beginning. The feast lasts seven days plus an eighth day and is observed by building and residing in temporary booths made out of sticks to commemorate Israelís time in the wilderness.
Historically this moed was fulfilled for Israel on May 14, 1948. At that time the U.N. had partitioned Palestine and Israel was given to the Jewish people. For the first time since 607 B.C. Israel was under Jewish control and the Jewish people had a homeland.
Isaiah prophesied regarding this event. Isa. 43:4-9 says, "Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life. Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him. Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears. Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and shew us former things? let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is truth." If we read further, the passage lets us know that when this prophecy was fulfilled Israel would still be in unbelief.
Jer 16:14-15 also prophesied concerning the same event. "Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be said, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers."
In recent years we have seen these prophecies fulfilled in a very literal way. Perhaps most striking was the fall of the Berlin Wall which was symbolic of the release of the Russian Jews. And who could ever forget Israelís airlift of the Falasha, the black Jews, from Ethiopia to Israel.
Israel is currently living in the fulfillment of her historic feast of Tabernacles.
Prophetically, the feast will be fulfilled by the millennial reign of Jesus Christ. Even though it will be a time of total blessing, it is temporary and will eventually be followed by life in new Jerusalem and the new heaven and earth.
In the fulfillment of Tabernacles, the church will jump to the eighth day of the moed: the new creation and permanent dwelling. In John 14:2-3 Jesus said this, "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." At the time of the rapture Christians will be resurrected, our works judged, and we will enter into our permanent, blessed state: a new beginning.
Lev. 23 gives specific dates for each of the moeds, set times, appointments. Passover was to be observed on Nisan 14 in the evening, Unleavened Bread was to be observed on Nisan 15-21, Firstfruits was to be observed on the first Sunday after Passover, and Pentecost, which today (incorrectly) has a set date on the Jewish calendar, was to be observed fifty days after Firstfruits.
Not only have the first three, and the first half of the fourth, moeds of Lev. 23 already been fulfilled by Jesus, their fulfillments occurred on the exact days of each of the moeds. These seven moeds were and are appointments that God has with mankind through Jesus. It seems reasonable that the remaining moeds will also be fulfilled on their actual feast days. Pentecost falls on the fiftieth day after the first Sunday following Passover, Rosh Hashanah falls on Tishri 1; the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, falls on Tishri 10; and Tabernacles, or Succoth, is observed on Tishri 15-21 plus Tishri 22.
Because Jesus will fulfill the moed of Trumpets as part of His works of redemption, it is possible that the second advent might occur on a future Rosh Hashanah. However, there is one more significant matter to consider. Lev. 23:24 says, "ÖIn the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation." The word first is the Hebrew word echad. It can mean a numeral (1), but it is also defined as: properly, united. The word is used regarding one bunch of grapes or one congregation. A very striking use of the word is found in Deut. 6:4, the shema, which Jesus called the "first of all commandments (Mark 12:29) Ė "Hear, O Israel: Jehovah, our Elohim, is echad Jehovah." The word echad indicates individual parts which make one whole entity.
The first three moeds of Lev. 23 are fulfilled on an individual basis in the church as each person becomes born again and the fourth is where we live. We receive the blessing looking back to the cross and the finished works of Jesus. The last three moeds, comprising the echad or compound unity (three moeds occurring at the same time) of Tishri, will be fulfilled simultaneously in the corporate body of Christ, but they will occur prior to his fulfillment of the moeds, therefore, just as in the earlier moeds, their fulfillment for Christians may not be tied to any of the three remaining specific dates.