McLaurin Memorial

Blog #308: The Jewish Fall Festivals

John Cline

On the jewishvoice.org website a recent article entitled, “Yeshua and the Fall Festivals: Divine Pictures of Things to Come” reminds us Christians of the importance of what we call the “Old Covenant” Festivals. The article (which uses the name Yeshua for Jesus) states, “Every event on God’s calendar is very important to all believers in Yeshua. Despite the fact that most Christians have consigned the biblical festivals to a long-forgotten history of the Jewish people, these festivals are just as vital to Christian identity today as they were in Bible days. The festivals which Yeshua and the apostles celebrated as they joined their Jewish families and communities in worship of the God of Israel still have profound significance for the Messianic Jewish community and for all Christians today. The greatest value of the festivals for Believers in Yeshua is that they reveal truths about the Messiah, just as Paul, the Jewish rabbi and Christian apostle, pointed out in Colossians 2:16–17: “These [Sabbath and festivals] are a shadow of things to come, the reality of which is the Messiah.” All of the seven festivals outlined in Leviticus 23 are prophetic pictures of the Messiah.” (We will jump to the three Fall Festivals in this blog…)

Just as surely as God fulfilled the spring festivals by filling them with the grace of Messiah, so the fall festivals will also be fulfilled by Yeshua at the end of the age. Without a doubt, God “will send Yeshua Messiah” who for the present “must remain in heaven” until the time comes “for God to restore everything as He promised long ago through His holy prophets” (Acts 3:20–21). When the Messiah comes, moreover, He will fulfill all the events in the fall festivals that God has promised throughout Holy Scripture.

The High Holy Days of the Fall Festivals begin with the celebration of Rosh Hashanah (which began at sunset on Sunday, September 25th), which is described in Scripture as Yom Teruah, “the day of blowing [of shofars]” (Leviticus 23:24). The penetrating sound of the shofar (ram’s horn) harkens back to the day when Abraham, at God’s bidding, offered Isaac in the Akedah (“binding”) on the altar on Mount Moriah only to discover that God had provided the sacrifice, a ram caught by his horns in a thicket (Genesis 22:8, 13). The shofar blasts that are sounded on Rosh Hashanah to initiate the Ten Days of Awe are designed to call God’s people to introspection and to repentance. Rosh Hashanah is filled with prophetic insight, foretelling the future time when, as the end of the age approaches, God has ordained a great day of awakening. The divine shofar will be blown on Yom Teruah (Rosh Hashanah), and this clarion call will be designed to summon Israel, the Church, and the world to repentance and restoration…The last shofar sound will issue forth this proclamation: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).

In biblical times, Yom Kippur (which began at sunset on Tuesday, October 4th) was the culmination of the Ten Days of Awe that began on Rosh Hashanah. It was the one day on the divine calendar when God annually summoned His people to repentance and renewal. This was a day of fasting and soul-searching in which the people of Israel examined themselves “to see that they were in the faith,” a practice that carried over into the nascent Messianic community of the first century (1 Corinthians 11:28). Again, what Israel did for centuries was designed by God to be prophetic of what would occur at the end of the age. Subsequent to the prophetic Rosh Hashanah blowing of the shofar in Zion to awaken all people, Yom Kippur speaks of another profound End-Time event when “all Israel will be saved,” when “the Deliverer will come out from Zion and will remove ungodliness from Jacob” (Romans 11:26). This will be a time of restoration during which Israel is destined to recognize the Messiah and to be reconciled to Him (Zechariah 12:10). It will be the ultimate fulfillment of Israel’s final Day of Atonement when God Himself will open a “fountain for sin to the house of David” (Zechariah 13:1), proclaim all of those who obey the sound of His shofar to be righteous (Isaiah 60:21), and inscribe their names in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 21:27).

The Festival of Sukkot (which started on the evening of Sunday, October 9th and will end at sundown on Sunday, October 16th. The festival in Israel lasts for 6 days ending at sundown on Saturday, October 15th) is the final Torah festival on God’s calendar. This festival celebrated the end of all the harvests, but it also required the Israelites to remember their journey from Egypt to Canaan by living for seven days in sukkot (booths or huts). Sukkot was described as “The Season of Our Joy” (Zeman Simchatenu) and was the greatest time of celebration on the calendar. In fact, the first- century celebration of Sukkot in Jerusalem was beyond spectacular. While recalling the transitory nature of human existence, this festival also featured time to search the heavens for signs of the Messiah’s coming. In Scripture, Sukkot is called both “Tabernacles” (Leviticus 23:34) and “Ingathering” (Exodus 23:16). Interestingly, when it is called “Ingathering,” it is said to occur “at the end of the year” or “at the turn of the year.” This correlates perfectly with Yeshua’s declaration that “the harvest is the end of the age” (Matthew 13:39). The second coming of Yeshua, therefore, corresponds to Tabernacles, the prophetic time when the Messiah will “send his angels with a great shofar and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (Matthew 24:31). In that Sukkot speaks of the age, both Jews and Gentiles—all the righteous of the earth— will be gathered together in Jerusalem to celebrate the last great festival (Tabernacles).“ingathering,” it also predicts that at the end of the age, both Jews and Gentiles—all the righteous of the earth— will be gathered together in Jerusalem to celebrate the last great festival (Tabernacles). This Sukkot will celebrate the inauguration of the universal kingdom of the Messiah in God’s capital city, Jerusalem. This was the event of which Paul spoke, the time when in an administration “suitable to the fullness of the times,” God Himself will “bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Messiah” (Ephesians 1:10). At that time, the righteous will rule with Yeshua (Revelation 20:6), and together they will “possess the everlasting kingdom of God forever and ever” (Daniel 7:18)…

Messianic Believers—and, indeed, all Christians— still have the same opportunities that the earliest apostles had to remember the most important events in salvation history when they celebrate Pesach and Shavuot. Likewise, they can hear the sound of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, challenging them to pray on Yom Kippur for repentance and for the redemption of Israel and of the whole world. They can also join together in celebrating Sukkot, anticipating the return of Yeshua HaMashiach in what will be the climactic event of all human history— the time when God will again tabernacle with humanity (Revelation 21:3) and all the people of the Earth will live in harmony as God spreads over them His universal sukkah shalom (Luke 2:14; 19:38).”

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