October 2, 2016
In Romans 11, the Apostle Paul explained to the Church of Rome the place that Israel has and still plays in God’s plan. He also explained that we are grafted into that tree that God had built from Israel. The Church of Rome chose to ignore that message and became Anti-Semitic. Instead of seeing its community as branches grafted onto Israel it chose to see itself as a new tree founded on the Apostle Peter.
One result of this view was that they threw away or changed all of the holy days God had given to Israel. Some they moved around on the calendar and renamed such as Easter Sunday. Others they created out of nothing such as Ascension, Assumption of Mary, All Saints Day (Day after Halloween), and Christmas.
Almost all Christian churches in existence now are daughters of the Church of Rome. Therefore the result of these changes to the holy days is that most Christians today don’t know God’s holy days and don’t know the messages that he showed through them. Overall the message in these days is a prophetic description of God’s plan for salvation and restoration of mankind and how Jesus would fulfill that plan.
God set aside seven times in every year as feasts for Israel. Israelites were required to make every possible effort to be in Jerusalem for the days of those feasts. Four of these feasts come in the spring of the year and are called the Spring Feasts. The other three come in the fall and are called the Fall Feasts. The Bible repeatedly refers to these days as Holy days, set aside for God’s purposes. In Ezekiel 22:26 God refers to them as his appointed days, days he has set aside for himself.
We now understand that God’s appointed days marked the day of the year when God would accomplish major steps in his plan of salvation and restoration. The Spring Feasts marked the major events of the first coming of the Messiah, his sinlessness, his death, the time he would spend in the grave, his resurrection, and the giving of the Holy Spirit. All of these happened on the exact day of the feast that is associated with them.
Therefore, the feast days are prophetic. They were not just days of rest and a time to socialize and have fun; they were also prophecies of things to come. Because the spring feasts mark the major points of Jesus’ first coming, we expect the fall feasts to mark the major events of his second coming. Because the events of the Spring Feasts occurred on the exact day of the feast we expect that will be true of the Fall Feasts, though the Bible doesn’t say it must be.
In this lesson we will learn what God is teaching us from the Fall Feast days.
The Spring Feasts
The spring feasts were all symbolic of the major events of the First Coming. The reason most Christians don’t know this is that someone moved them around and renamed them and therefore the teaching value they have is lost and their value as fulfilled prophecies is also lost.
|Jewish Feast Days||When||Symbolizing||Catholic Days||When|
|– preparation – all yeast is removed from the home (Exodus 12:15,19)||Previous month||← Removing sin
|Lent – Hot Cross Buns are eaten||Previous 6 weeks|
|– selecting the lamb (Exodus 12:3,5)||Nissan 10, 4 days before Passover||← Choosing a flawless lamb
|Palm Sunday||Sunday, 5 days before Good Friday|
|Passover||Nissan 14, any day of the week||Sacrifice of the Lamb for sin||Good Friday||Friday, 2 days before Easter|
|Days of Unleavened Bread||3 day period beginning at Passover||A sinless sacrifice in the grave|
|First Fruits||Nissan 17, 3 days after Passover||Resurrection from the grave||Easter||Sunday, complex formula|
|Shavu’ot||Sivan 6, 7 weeks plus a day (50 days) after the day after Passover||The giving of the Holy Spirit||Pentecost – Greek word meaning 50 days||Sunday, 49 days after Easter|
These notable changes occur in the Catholic Days.
- Sunday becomes the central day; none of the Catholic days line up with the Jewish days
- The major feast of Passover becomes the minor day of Good Friday. The lesser day of First Fruits becomes the major day of Easter.
- The 3 days Jesus prophesied he would be in the grave become 2 days
- The 50 days to Shavu’ot become 49 although the name Pentecost means 50 days.
Everything in the Jewish feast days is symbolic of what Jesus would accomplish. Everything in the Catholic days is a twisted version of that.
As bad as this is, it was worse for the fall feast days. They were completely blotted out of existence. No remnant of them remains on the Christian calendar.
As we have seen, each of the feasts foreshadowed an event during the First Coming and was fulfilled by that event happening or beginning on that exact day.
Summer (4 month period between feasts)
After the Spring feast days comes the summer. But this is not a time for lazing around in the sun.
“In Leviticus 23, God had just completed addressing the spring festivals; and before addressing the fall festivals, He had this to say, seemingly out of the blue:”
When you reap the harvest of your land, moreover, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field nor gather the gleaning of your harvest; you are to leave them for the needy and the alien. I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 23:22)
“Why should God be addressing the providing of food for the needy and the alien at this point? The answer is this: The feasts all have sequential prophetic outworkings, and this admonition also has a prophetic outworking, and perfectly in sequence with the feasts.”
“Pentecost has come [and gone], and we are now in the [time of the fullness of the Gentiles1], the summer, and it’s the time for laboring in the fields. Jesus said, “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest'” (John 4:35). It’s the time in which we all need to be laboring to provide spiritual food for the spiritually needy and the alien to bring in a harvest of souls for the Lord, each of us doing his or her part according to our gifts and callings.”2
The fall feast days together make up a 15-day period. These are the most holy days on the calendar and the most holy of all these days is Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement.
Yom Teru’ah – Feast of Trumpets – Rosh Hashana
The Feast of Trumpets is celebrated by shouting and the blowing of trumpets, both metal and ram’s horn trumpets. At the start of each month the priests blow the trumpet to tell the people to warn the people to turn away from their sins. It is also a warning that the king is coming. At the start of this month, Yom Teru’ah, everyone blows the trumpet. This is a welcome for the king.
Because this is the 7th month on the religious calendar, this is the 7th blowing of trumpets on the calendar. In the Book of Revelation and in many of the epistles there are references to 7 trumpets, or just the 7th trumpet, or the final trumpet. This feast of Yom Teru’ah is the symbolic representation of that 7th trumpet. Especially from 1st and 2nd Thessalonians we know that the final trumpet is the call to God’s people to arise and to ascend to be with him in the event now called the Rapture. Here are the verses from 1 Thessalonians 4
16 Because Our Lord shall descend from Heaven with a command and with the voice of the Archangel and with the trumpet blast of God, and the dead who are in The Messiah shall rise first; 17 and then we who remain, who have life, we shall be carried away with them together in clouds to a meeting of Our Lord in the air, and in this way, we shall always be with Our Lord.
1 Corinthians 15 says it this way:
52 Suddenly, like the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet, when it shall sound, and the dead shall rise without corruption, and we shall be transformed.
This day was known to Israel as the day that no man knows. This is because the priests determined the exact day by observation of the moon. So no one knew the day until the priests said it was the day. Now we know the lunar cycles with great precision and can predict the day. The Bible has many references to Jesus returning on a day you do not know and the theme of coming unexpectedly like a thief in the night is everywhere.
The Jews have a prayer they pray on this day which ties back to the voice of God that came as the sound of a Shofar at Mount Sinai, just before the Ten Commandments were given. All of this happened as God came to be with them in the wilderness.
You revealed Yourself in Your cloud of glory to Your
holy people to speak to them. From the heavens You let
them hear Your voice, and revealed Yourself to them in
pure clouds. The whole world also trembled before You,
the beings of creation were in awe of You, when You, our
King, revealed Yourself upon Mount Sinai to teach Your
people Torah and mitzvot. You let them hear the majesty
of Your voice and Your holy utterances from flames of fire;
with thunder and lightning You revealed Yourself to them,
with the sound of the shofar You appeared to them
Days of Awe
The Feast of Trumpets begins a 10-day period called the Days of Awe. The generally accepted understanding of the meaning of these days is that this is a time of judgment and a last chance for each person to consider their sins and repent. At the end of this period it will be too late.
This is the Jewish perspective on the meaning. “This is a time for serious introspection, a time to consider the sins of the previous year and repent before Yom Kippur. One of the ongoing themes of the Days of Awe is the concept that God has ‘books’ that he writes our names in, writing down who will live and who will die, who will have a good life and who will have a bad life […]. These books are written in on Rosh Hashanah, but our actions during the Days of Awe can alter God’s decree.”3
During these Days of Awe God will be pouring out his wrath on the people on the earth (Revelation 16). As we saw in Yom Teru’ah, we will be with him in the clouds. What stands out most from Revelation 16 is seen in these verses. God is sending plague after plague on them and how do they respond.
And the children of men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has authority over these plagues, and they did not repent to give him glory. (Revelation 16:9)
And they blasphemed the name of the God of Heaven due to their pains and due to their sores, and they did not repent of their works. (Revelation 16:11)
Yom Kippur – Atonement
The Days of Awe end with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, also called the Last Great Day. At the end of this day in Israel the final sacrifices were made and sin was symbolically removed completely. All those who had not repented of their sins by that time were “cut-off.”
We see from those in Israel who were to be cut-off that this is also a day of judgement. The believers will be separated from the unbelievers permanently. No longer will salvation by faith be possible. For when the hope is seen, faith is no more.
[…] but hope that is seen is not hope, for if we see hope, why do we look for it? 25. But if we hope for what is not seen, we wait patiently for it. (Romans 8:24-25)
Now faith is the conviction concerning those things that are in hope, as if it were these things in action, and the revelation of those things that are unseen; (Hebrews 11:1)
In the year when the prophetic Fall Feasts are fulfilled, by this day the glory of the Messiah will have filled the earth for 10 days. His wrath will also have been poured out on the people who remain. Yet during those 10 days there has been a last chance at salvation. By his grace God will have allowed salvation by faith to remain despite the hope being present, though somewhat distant (in the air).
At the end of those days, on that future Yom Kippur, that solemn day, the judgement will fall. Billions will be cut-off from God.
This feast day is actually a fast day. This is such a solemn day, even if it falls on a weekly Sabbath, which is a feast day, the Sabbath becomes a fast day.
In Israel, this feast day involved a complicated set of sacrifices by the priests that show the final disposal of sin. Although Jesus’ sacrifice has taken sin away from us, the record of sin still exists. This feast symbolizes the removal of sin the day that Jesus’ atoning sacrifice wipes the record clean.
This may be hard for some to understand. In a previous lesson we learned that we are justified before God because Jesus’ paid the debt we owed. This is in the same way as a legal court where a man is freed or redeemed because his debt has been paid. But the court record still exists. This feast points to a day when even the court records will be destroyed.
Sukkot – Tabernacles – In Gathering
The Feast of Tabernacles begins 5 days after the Day of Atonement and lasts for 8 days. It marks the period of time when God was with his people, the Israelites, while they wandered in the desert. It symbolizes the coming time when God will again be with his people. It is also associated with temporary dwellings where God kept his people before they were to come into their promise.
A Sukkah (singular of the plural Sukkot) is a simple tent like structure. For the 40 years the Israelites wandered in the wilderness these were the places where they lived and took down and set up as they moved about. A Sukkah is essentially a tent, and is associated with the word “tabernacle.” Sukkot also talks about these temporary bodies that we live in as we travel through this wilderness. It speaks about the new bodies we will live in on that future Feast of Sukkot.
Revelation talks about this time.
And I heard a great voice from Heaven that said, “Behold, the Tabernacle of God is with the children of men, and he dwells with them and they shall be his people and the same God is with them and shall be their God.” (Revelation 21:3)
The direct relationship between man and God was ruptured in the Garden of Eden and sin entered into the world. These feasts are the 7 steps that God has taken and will take to restore that relationship and remove sin.
- Passover – Jesus, the Promised Messiah and Son of God, would become the sacrifice that takes away sin
- Unleavened Bread – Jesus kept himself sinless and we are to do the same
- First Fruits – Jesus is the first fruit of the old covenant
- Pentecost – Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to those who believe. Jew and Gentile are no more.
- Trumpets – Jesus returns to reap the harvest of the new covenant
- Atonement – Jesus atoning sacrifice removes the sin of the believers from the universe
- Tabernacles – Jesus comes to stay with his people
When God gave these feasts to the Israelites he never told them they there was this prophetic message in them. There is no evidence that any Jewish scholar prior to Jesus’ time understood that the Spring Feasts were about the First Coming of the Messiah. At least in our time there is some understanding that the Fall Feasts symbolize the coming of God as king over the earth, what we call the Second Coming of the Messiah. It wasn’t until the Holy Spirit was given that any man understood that there was a message in the feasts and what the message was.
That is amazing when you think about it. Some people claim that the Old Testament was written by ordinary men and is not by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. If that’s the case how could men write words that were prophecies but they didn’t know it?
How did the Spring Feasts get so messed up
At the time of the Reformation most of the Catholic Church’s Holy Days were dropped by the newly forming Protestant Churches. Most members of Protestant Churches now aren’t even aware of the Catholic Church’s Holy Days, such as “Epiphany, Feast of the Ascension, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Feast of the Immaculate Conception.” A few were kept by most churches – Good Friday, Easter, and Christmas. A few were only kept by some churches. Lent is one of those.
Where did these Holy Days come from? Where did the Spring and Fall Feasts go to?
The churches started by the Apostles after Jesus’ time all observed the Spring Feasts of the Jews. There are plenty of historical references to support this and no one who knows the history disputes this.
One trail of this evidence comes when the Roman, by that time Catholic, church began to expand outside of the Roman world. As they did they encountered other Christians but found that all these groups could name the Apostle who started their church and they all observed the feasts of the Jews. By that time the Catholic Church had stopped observing those feasts and “Christianized” these peoples by persecuting them and killing them until they accepted the practices of Catholicism.
In this lesson we won’t follow that trail of evidence. Instead we’ll follow the much earlier trail of how the Church of Rome, which became the Catholic Church, changed from observing the Spring Feasts to persecuting those who did.
The trail of evidence begins with a man called Polycarp4. Around 155 A.D. Polycarp was the only man living who had known, worked with, and studied under the Apostles. This gave him an immense amount of credibility among believers.
Polycarp lived in the area of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor mentioned in Revelation and pastored one of them, the Church of Smyrna. He was appointed to that position of Bishop by the Apostles. Because his name is Greek it is believed that he was not a Jew.
Word reached Polycarp that the Church of Rome was having a lot of trouble keeping out false teachings. Rome had become a hub for world religions. The church there was growing and taking in new believers who came from these other religions but it was also taking on beliefs and practices from those religions and also factionalizing along its own theological lines.
Polycarp was an old man at the time but he decided to make the long trip to Rome to fight against these problems. Despite his credibility he was not completely successful.
One of the issues Polycarp addressed while in Rome was a practice of the church there. He told Anicetus, who was then the Bishop of Rome, that John the Apostle and the other apostles that Polycarp had met had always observed Passover when the Jews did, on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Nissan. It appears that Anicetus agreed with Polycarp but replied that the church of Rome had celebrated it on Sunday for some time and he could not change that. The two bishops celebrated communion together and went their own ways. This began what would become a large rupture between the Church of the East and the Western Church (which still included Greece).
Notice Polycarp’s point – the date matters. What had the Church of Rome done that Polycarp felt he needed to correct them? They had moved Passover observance from the 14th of Nissan, which could fall on any day of the week, to the following Sunday, so it would always be on Sunday.
This was to be an ongoing pattern for the Church of Rome / Catholic Church moving things to Sunday. The same thing happens a little later with the movement of the Pentecost and Sabbath to Sunday. It is never said why this was done. We can look at some of the factors that may have influenced them.
- Most Romans disliked Jews and mistreated them. Acts 18:2 describes people coming from Rome, having been kicked out. Other historians also record that all the Jews were ordered to leave Rome. This mistreatment existed even in the early church. Many of the Christian writers of that time expressed anti-Semitic beliefs. Therefore, they didn’t want to look like they were Jews by practicing like Jews.
- For centuries the god Saturnus (Saturn to us) had been the god that most Romans worshipped. The planet Saturn is named after him as is the day Saturday. At that time a shift was occurring though and the new cool god was Sol Invictus, the Sun god. Sunday is named after him. Moving observances to Sunday would have made Christianity much more acceptable to Romans and a Roman world
- Romans saw themselves as building a new church, not continuing on from Judaism. This is likely why Paul dedicates the 11th chapter of the letter to the Romans to the idea that we are grafted in as wild olives to a tree that is not of our nature. Romans wanted a new church centered in Rome, which was the center for almost everything else.
- Romans believed that Jesus was resurrected on Sunday and considered that a special day
The Church of Rome had no power to enforce its views at that time. The people of that church, though, began to mock those Christians who held to the Nissan 14 date. They gave them the name “Quartodecimans”. In English that would be fourteen-ers. The Church of Rome considered them too rigid, inflexible, and legalistic.
After the death of Polycarp the next person to run into this issue is a man called Polycrates. He was the Bishop of the Church of Ephesus, the same church to which Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was written, though at an earlier time.
The Church of Rome now has more power and control than it had but still not enough to enforce its will on everyone. It saw itself as the primary church of all the churches though most other churches did not agree. The problem arises about 40 years later, around 195 A.D., because the Bishop of Rome, called Victor, has sent a letter to the Churches of the East demanding they observe the Passover as Rome did, and as most other churches were doing. This is what Eusebius, a church historian, records that Polycrates wrote as a response.
We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord’s coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who fell asleep in Hierapolis; and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter, who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and, being a priest, wore the sacerdotal plate. He fell asleep at Ephesus. And Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, bishop and martyr from Eumeneia, who fell asleep in Smyrna. Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris who fell asleep in Laodicea, or the blessed Papirius, or Melito the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate [kingdom] from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead?
All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said ‘We ought to obey God rather than man’…I could mention the bishops who were present, whom I summoned at your desire; whose names, should I write them, would constitute a great multitude. And they, beholding my littleness, gave their consent to the letter, knowing that I did not bear my gray hairs in vain, but had always governed my life by the Lord Jesus.5
Much could be learned from a thorough analysis of Polycrates’ words but the most relevant insights are:
- his statement “neither adding, nor taking away.” This is a reference to the various admonitions in the Bible not to add to what the Bible says nor to take away from what it says. We covered this in a previous lesson6. Polycrates isn’t just referring to these admonitions; this is a veiled declaration that the Church of Rome has added or taken away. To this he adds a quote from the Apostles, “We ought to obey God rather than man”
- his history of the observance of Passover going back to the Apostles. His point is that all these great men never deviated from the Bible.
By this time the Church of Rome had changed the date for Passover again. Its new date was no longer related to Nissan 14. Another interesting change occurred. Passover became a Friday, Good Friday, and it was the day of resurrection that became the main observance, called Resurrection Sunday, later known as Easter Sunday.
The name Easter comes from the goddess of fertility who had various names in many languages, Eostre, Astarte, etc. These all appear to have originated from the Babylonian goddess Ishtar. Some people say the name goes back even further. It isn’t clear how the name of a pagan goddess became attached to what had been Passover. The symbols of Ishtar were spring (renewal), rabbits and eggs (fertility). Likely the main worship day for Ishtar was in the spring at about the same time as the Passover celebration and the two became connected.
All along. the Church had been adding new days to the Christian calendar. For example, All Saints Day was added to commemorate the Christian martyrs. We now call this day Halloween. In the same way they also added to Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.
1 Spoken of by Paul in Romans 11