Must Gentile Christians Observe the Jewish Feasts?

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Article by Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

This post was shared with me a week or so ago and I found it very interesting, full of good points. I’ve also written on the subject in the past. If you’d like to read a past article on the matter check out Celebrate Bible-Style.

There are several reasons why this topic is making a powerful comeback. The primary reason is that in the past 20 years Christian Churches around the globe, represented by almost every major Christian denomination, have become much more aware of the Jewish identity of their Savior and King. This, of course, is a wonderful thing.

The question is usually framed in a very simple way: “Must Christians observe the Jewish feasts?” I would submit to you that there are several problems with how the question is formed.

First, the assumption is that “Christians” are members of a non-Jewish movement, independent in every way from the people of Israel. Knowing what we now know about the Jewish background of the New Testament, we can say with full confidence that this is clearly not the case.

Second, the question refers to the Feasts of the Lord as “the Jewish feasts,” as if these feasts did not belong to God himself as their biblically native terminology clearly implies. Only when we adopt the biblical (rather than theological) categories, can we begin to see that we are asking the wrong question. Wrong questions, in turn, are known to lead good and godly people to wrong answers.

Third, the inclusion of “must” is problematic as well. It unintentionally advances the question in the context of the Protestant-Catholic, 16th-century divide regarding personal salvation (faith vs. works).

I would restate the question in a way that, while surely more cumbersome in Christian English (the language of our communication), is more fitting to the biblical context:

“Should the follower of the Jewish Christ, who comes from the nations and not from Israel, also mark as holy ‘the Feasts of Lord’”?

I think the answer to this question is clearly – yes. The question is not “if”, but “how” must Gentile followers of the Jewish Christ observe the Feasts of the Lord in covenantal continuity and partnership with Israel, yet with full realization of the powerful implications brought forth by Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension.

It is indeed very interesting to note that Christian Churches, especially in their Catholic and Eastern Orthodox expressions, have never claimed that believers should cease to observe the feasts of the Lord.

In fact, both Christian communities (along with most protestant ones) have regularly marked many key biblical feasts with special worship celebrations. Unfortunately, they have often observed the feasts purposely on different dates and often inventing traditions far removed (and sometimes antithetical) to the original biblical injunctions.

Gentile Christians today are called to reunite with the people of Israel through, among other things, Christ-centered observance of the Feasts of the Lord and in so doing to experience their belonging to the Commonwealth of Israel.

For more articles like these are various topics, go to the Israel Bible Center website.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters!

Celebrate Bible-Style

1888931_origSeven Feasts

Year-long Celebration

God’s Redemption

One Messiah

 

This is the fourth and last post looking at how God chose to paint a picture of the Messiah through the book of Leviticus. In the three previous posts, I talked about the process of cleansing lepers, the Day of Atonement, and the significance of blood in the Old Testament system. This post will be a little different. In Leviticus, chapter 23 appears an outline of the Biblical feasts. Instead of doing seven separate posts about each one, I’m going to lay out simple historical, prophetic, and spiritual connections to all seven in this one post. For that reason, this post will be quite lengthy but also concise and organized. Let’s begin!

Some of these feasts I’ve already posted about like Tabernacles, TrumpetsPassover and the Day of Atonement. But before I go more into each feast I’d like to make a few statements as to why I believe this is important for all Christians to know. Not only is it my opinion as a follower of Christ, but the Bible itself provides some powerful reasons for studying, understanding, and celebrating the Seven Festivals. Here are twelve of those reasons:

  1.  The Feasts are in the Bible, and all the Bible is inspired by God. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
  2.  The Feasts are a shadow of things to come that teach us about the Messiah. (Colossians 2:16-17, Hebrews 10:1)
  3. God gave the Feasts so we could learn and understand God’s plan of redemption for the world and our personal relationship to Him. (Romans 15:4)
  4. All of the Festivals are, at the same time, both historical and prophetic, and mean more to Christians than Jews.
  5. All of the Festivals teach about the Messiah (Jesus Christ).
  6. All of the Festivals teach about your personal relationship with God and how you are to walk with Him as you grow in the knowledge of Him, from being a baby believer to a mature believer.
  7. We are “grafted in” as God’s people through Christ, called to follow God’s word. (Romans 11:19)
  8. These are God’s Feasts, not the Jewish feasts. (Leviticus 23:1)
  9. Christ himself celebrated all of them as well as the 1st-century church. (Gospels and Acts)
  10. The feasts bring about knowledge of what God has called His people (not just Jews) to do to celebrate and worship Him.
  11. God’s Holy Feasts can take you deeper in your relationship with God. They have such significant meaning and unlock the meaning of scripture in an incredible way.
  12. God is a “calendaring” God, which is demonstrated by major events in Biblical History occurring on or around Feasts and how they reveal God’s redemptive plan for mankind.

The Festivals of the Lord found in Leviticus, chapter 23, were given to us by God so His people could understand the coming of the Messiah and the role that the Messiah would play in redeeming and restoring both man and the earth back to God following the fall of Man in the Garden of Eden. The Festivals are divided into two major portions, depending upon whether they occur in the spring or the fall.  The Spring Festivals teach about the First Coming of the Messiah, and the Fall Festivals teach about the Second Coming of the Messiah.

The Apostle Paul, in Colossians 2:16-17 refers to the Feasts as a “shadow of things to come.”  The first four Feasts or Festivals, which are Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Pentecost, primarily teach about the significant events in the First Coming of the Messiah and why these events were an important part of God’s redemption of man. Pentecost marked the beginning of the Church (body of Christ).

The last three Feasts, which are the Feast of Trumpets, also known as Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths (Sukkot), give us a fascinating insight concerning important events that surround the Second Coming of the Messiah.  God gave the Festivals to teach about the death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah, the empowering of the believers by the Holy Spirit, the resurrection of the dead, the coronation of the Messiah, the wedding of the Messiah, the Millennium, and much more.

I want to demonstrate the incredible relevance of these feasts in three ways. First, I’d like to give a simple (and I mean simple) quick reference chart showing the meanings of all seven feasts. Second, I’ll provide some more scripture references for your own personal study if you so wish to join the journey. And third, I’ll break down three Hebrew words connected to the feasts.

Feast Historical meaning Messianic meaning Spiritual meaning
Passover Israel’s deliverance out of Egyptian bondage Death of Christ on the Cross Repent and trust by faith in the shed blood of Jesus. Saved by the blood
Unleavened Bread The going out of Egypt in haste after the tenth plague The burial of Jesus along with our sin Sanctification and separation from evil
First Fruits Crossing the Red Sea and crossing into the Promised Land. The resurrection of Jesus and ascension to heaven Walking in newness of life
Pentecost Giving the Commandments at Mount Sinai (Commissioning Israel) Pouring out of the Holy Spirit and birth of the Church (Commissioning followers of Jesus) Immersion (baptism) in the Holy Spirit and faith in God
Trumpets Jewish New Year The resurrection of the dead and Rapture of the believers Hear the calling of God for our lives just as Jesus’ sheep hear His voice
Day of Atonement The priest entered the Holy of Holies and Cleansing of the people’s sins The day of Christ’s Second Coming Surrendering ourselves to God so that we may live in His Presence
Tabernacle Entering the Promised Land/Great Rejoicing and when Jesus became the tabernacle of God’s fullness here on earth The Messianic Era/Millennium where we will live in the presence of Christ again after He returns A daily and eternal rest in the Messiah.

So that you don’t take my word for anything in the first chart, I’d like to provide you with another chart with scripture references from the Old and New Testaments. Bear in mind that this is not an exhaustive study and there are so many more verses and stories in the Bible that unlock the importance of these feast days. But this will get you started.

Feast Scripture…Old and New Testament
Passover Exodus 12:14, 28-50                                 John 2:23 and 3:1-17

Leviticus 23:4-8                                         Luke 22:7-20

Joshua 5:10-11                                          Mark 14

Ezra 6:14-22                                               Matthew 26

Numbers 9:1-2, 15-23

2 Chronicles 30 and 35

Unleavened Bread Leviticus 23:4-8                                         Romans 6:1-23

Exodus 12, 13, 23:15, 34                         1 Corinthians 5:1-8

Numbers 28:16-18

Deuteronomy 16

 

First Fruit Leviticus 23:9-14                                       1 Corinthians 15

James 1:18

Pentecost Exodus 12:6,12 and 19:1, 11                   Acts 2:1-4

Leviticus 23:15-22                                     1 Corinthians 16:7-8

Acts 20:16

John 14:15-26

Trumpet Leviticus 23:23-25                                     Revelation 8:6-11:19

1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

Yom Kippur Leviticus 23:26-32                                     Revelation 17-20

Leviticus 16

Tabernacles Zechariah 14:16                                        Revelation 7:9-10 (Lev 23:40)

Leviticus 23:33-44                                    John 7:2-11

1 King 8:2,65                                             Revelation 20-22

Nehemiah 8:1-3

Ezra 3:1-5

General Bible Verses 1 Kings 19:18                                             Mark 7:6-9

Ezekiel 8:13-14                                         Colossians 2:8

Deuteronomy 12:3-4                               1 Corinthians 10:21

Ezekiel 20:18-21                                       Matthew 5:17, 18

The third and last thing I’d like to give you is a word study. Below are three important Hebrew words and what they say about these Holy Feasts.

Translating the word “FEAST” in Leviticus 23

MO’ED

In verse 2, the word for feast is the Hebrew word ‘mo’ed‘- “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, concerning the feasts (mo’ed) of the Lord…” The word ‘mo’ed‘ means an appointment, a fixed time or season, a cycle or year, an assembly, an appointed time, a set time or exact time.  By understanding the Hebrew meaning of the English word “feast”, we can see that God is telling us that He is ordaining a “set time or exact time or an appointed time” when He has an appointment with humanity to fulfill certain events in the redemption.

CHAG

In verse 6 is another Hebrew word translated as “feast”- “And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast (chag) of unleavened bread…”  The Hebrew word ‘chag‘, which means a “festival”, is derived from the Hebrew root word ‘chagag‘, which means to move in a circle, to march in a sacred procession, to celebrate, dance, to hold a solemn feast or holiday.  God gave the Festivals as cycles to be observed yearly so that, by doing them, we can understand God’s redemptive plan for the world, the role that the Messiah would play in that redemption, and our personal relationship to God concerning how we grow from a baby Bible believer to a mature Bible believer.

MIQRA

In Leviticus 23:2 it is written, “…the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations…”  The Hebrew term translated as convocation in Leviticus 23:2,4 is ‘miqra‘, which means “a rehearsal“.  God 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 those events, then we need to understand what God was teaching us by these rehearsals.

God is so awesome to tell us the full story of His redemptive plan! Through the feasts, we get to celebrate grace, redemption, God’s goodness, and the Messiah all year long! What a great New Year’s resolution. To go deeper with Jesus through His feasts.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters

 

In His Presence

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Sunday October 23rd was the conclusion to the Holy Feast Calendar based on the seven Holy Feasts laid out by God in the Old Testament. Several friends and family members of mine met to honor the feast known as Tabernacles. Other names include the Feast of In-gathering, Feast of Booths, or Sukkot. A lot of people don’t spend much time investigating and studying feasts like this because it sounds to unfamiliar. In fact, I think most Christians even may skip over these when reading the old testament or read them but miss the relevance and connection to us as followers of Christ. But…they are jam packed with so much details about God’s redemptive plan for humanity and all of them point to some character attribute of Jesus Christ and His past and future work here on earth. In one of my previous blogs I introduced a little on the feasts. This post is all about the Feast of Tabernacles.

I love the feasts and Tabernacles is one of my favorite. Some of the feasts are meant to be solemn but other are meant to be full of rejoicing. Now there are obvious reasons to be joyful and full of hope with all of the Holy Feasts and in Tabernacles we are actually commanded by God to celebrate and be full of joy and thanksgiving. How awesome is that? So here is a little taste of why this feast is so cool, most of all for Christians.

The theme of the feast is in the title. The tabernacle, or dwelling, is a common symbol used for God’s presence among His creation. In Exodus, God commands Moses to build a tabernacle in the wilderness. Why? Because God wanted to dwell among the nation of Israel. Later on Solomon would build the first temple which had a similar layout as the tabernacle and served the same purpose…God’s presence among His people. Fast forward to John chapter one and we see an even greater representation of God dwelling among us.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14 (NIV)

The Word is obviously Jesus, who was the full embodiment of God in the flesh. Jesus is the tabernacle and the temple. The word “dwelling” in this verse is actually the same word used for “to tabernacle”. If that’s not enough to blow your mind and prove the significance of this feast for Christians, then lets keep going.

 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)

As believers in Christ we too are tabernacles/temples. God no longer just appears to us in temples and tents and churches, God’s Spirit is dwelling/tabernacling in us. Those who just look at this feast from it’s old testament meaning are missing more than just one piece of the puzzle. Yes, it originally pointed to God dwelling among Israel and them living in temporary homes known as booths while on their journey to the promised land, but all of that was a foreshadowing of greater meaning later on.

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

1 Peter 2:11 (ESV)

Just as the Israelites wondered in the wilderness and dwelt in temporary homes before reaching the promised land, so too are we. The word “sojourner” means a traveler…someone passing through. You’ve seen the bumper stickers. “We are not of this world”. They come from the statement Jesus made when praying in the garden of Gethsemane the night before He was crucified. We, as Christians, are passing through this world on our way to THE promised land, which is actually our home.

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…

Philippians 3:20 (NASB)

So this Feast has a past significance (the tabernacle, the temple, and Jesus coming to live on earth), a present significance (God’s Holy Spirit living in us), and also a future significance.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

Revelation 21:3 (ESV)

This is what we celebrate when we celebrate the feast. We honor God’s faithfulness in the past, present, and future. We praise Him for wanting to be among us and that He has allowed us to be in His presence. This is only a taste of what this feast means of humanity. I encourage anyone in search of knowing more about God’s character and His plan to research all of these feasts. Knowing these unlocks so much of the bible and gives us so much hope that He is control. That’s something we need in these difficult days.