Saturday, November 1, 2014


As I look at Leviticus 23 and see the Feasts of the LORD, it actually excites me to see how much detail went into the observances of the feasts and how that detail is intricately tied to Jesus Christ and the Church.  The feast that I want to focus on here is the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost.  The church had it's official beginning during the observance of this feast in Jerusalem, 49 days after Christ rose from the dead.  An in depth study of Leviticus 23 reveals that the major Feasts God prescribed for Israel to observe had everything to do with preparing the people for the coming of the Messiah and ushering in the Age of Grace.  

Jesus was crucified on Passover, becoming our Passover Lamb, who takes away the sins of the world.  The very next day, begins the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  Jesus is the Bread of Life and begins this feast "in the belly of the earth", a clear reference to bread being devoured, unleavened bread - meaning bread without sin.  Three days later, the first day after the first Sabbath after the Passover, Christ rose again on a day set aside by God as First Fruits.  This was the day when the Israelites were commanded to  present the first of their harvest before  YHWH.  Jesus is the First Fruits of the church age, the first resurrection.  Christ is called the First Fruits by the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 15, where Paul discusses the resurrection of the Messiah.  Jesus fulfilled the Feast of Passover by His death and fulfilled the Feast of First Fruits by His resurrection.  The birth of the Church, 49 days later, fulfills the Feast of Weeks.  There are 7 major Feasts commanded by God for Israel to observe, 4, the Spring feasts, have been fulfilled by the death, burial, resurrection of Christ and the birth of the Church.  Three Fall feasts are yet to be fulfilled by the return of Christ - Trumpets, Atonement, and Booths.  

All of the Spring feasts found their fulfillment outside the church age, meaning that the church did not exist when these feasts were fulfilled by Christ.  The fulfillment of the 4th and final Spring feast actually inaugurated the Church age.  The reason being is that these Feasts were given specifically to Israel, not the Church. As the children of Israel were about to enter into the Promised Land, God dictated to Moses these feast to be observed by "all your generations."   When we realize that all 7 feasts were specifically given, by God, to Israel, to be observed by "all your generations", and that the first 4 feasts found their fulfillment before the church existed, it is reasonable to deduce that the final 3 feasts will also be fulfilled during a time when the church is not in existence.  The 3 fall feasts were given by God to Israel and belong to Israel, not the Church. I believe that at the fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets, the church age will end and God will begin the 70th week of Daniel, a time referred to by the prophet Jeremiah, as the time of Jacob's trouble.  This would be the time known to the Church as the Seven Year Tribulation.  

I would like to take the time to focus specifically on the Feast of Weeks, to demonstrate that the Church does not replace Israel, but is a new and different thing that is given the same blessings and inclusion as Israel.  Inclusion into the family of God, designated as "saints" and "the elect" but not the fullness of the saints or the elect, who are specifically any one who responds to God according to the dispensational program in which they happen to live.  In each age, God required faith, but that faith was demonstrated differently in each age.  Adam's faith was demonstrated by abstaining from the fruit of good and evil, Abraham's faith was demonstrated by his obeying God's calling, up to and including the offering of his own son, Isaac, as a sacrifice, Israel's faith was determined by the observance of the Law, the church age people are called to trust in the sacrifice of Christ and to live transformed lives, and after the church age, according to Jesus in Mathew 25 and James, the brother of Christ, we see faith being demonstrated as proper treatment of the poor and persecuted.  All these periods of time produced saints.  Saints are not exclusively the church, nor are individual members of the church specifically the elect, but corporately grafted into election, which, I believe, specifically belongs to Israel as a nation.  (that will be addressed in a different blog on a different day) 

In Leviticus 23:15-21, we see God's intricate directions to Moses, concerning the Feast of Weeks.  The First thing that stands out to me is in verse 15:   "You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering.  Seven is seen in the Bible as the number of completion.  That Israel is told to mark out 7 weeks from the Feast of First Fruits indicates that this is a completion of something.  I posit that this instruction was given to Israel to indicate the end of the age of the Law.  This becomes more evident when we examine the next verse along with the events of Acts 2.  

Lev 23:16  You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the LORD.  We see that one day after the completion of 7 weeks, the nation of Israel is commanded to observe the Feast of Weeks.  In other words, after 7 Sabbaths, the next day is a feast unto the Lord.  The significance to us is the events recorded in Acts 2 in relation to this very observance.  

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians andMedes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: 

After Peter addresses this crowd, 3000 people put their faith in Christ and the church is born.  As with many Bible passages, this one is filled with layers of meanings, which, when coupled with the passages from Leviticus 23, take on even more significance.  The first thing to note is that God instructed Israel to observe this day 7 Sabbaths after the Feast of First Fruits.  Jesus resurrected on the Feast of First fruits, so 7 Sabbaths and one day after the resurrection of Christ, the Church is born on the day of Pentecost.  As noted above, 7 is the Biblical number of completion.  7 Sabbaths after the resurrection of Messiah, we see the end of the age of the Law.  Here is the evidence - The men who were in Jerusalem during the Feast of Pentecost were observant Jews who followed the Law.  By this designation, these men would have been "right with God" under the dictates of the Law.  If these men were already in God's good grace, why would they have needed to receive Christ?  I submit to you that the previous day, on God's calendar, the age of the Law was no more and something new and previously unknown was beginning - the age of grace.  The Law was unable to redeem mankind from sin, but people of faith demonstrated that faith by observing the Law.  In the age of grace, people of faith are called to place that faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.  These men of faith transferred their allegiance from the law to Christ, being persuaded by Peter's revelation that everything written in the Law and Prophets was meant to reveal the Messiah, who had now procured salvation for all who would believe.  

If the Church were not a new thing, the faithful Jewish men would not have needed to transfer their allegiance to Christ on that day, they would have still been covered by the provisions of the Law.  The Law was no longer sufficient as a demonstration of faith because the truth of the Messiah had been revealed and a new dispensation or covenant was in effect.  Just as the age of the Law was inaugurated at Mt. Sinai with the giving of the 10 Commandments, so did the age of Law come to an end on the Day of Pentecost following the resurrection of Christ.  The fact that the death, resurrection and beginning of the church age all took place on feast days directed by God in Leviticus 23 bespeaks of the desire of God to convey to His people Israel that the Blessed Hope, Messiah, had now come and a new age had dawned.  Even though the church age had now dawned, it was not until the Jewish leaders, who represented the people before God, rejected the church, that the church became a primarily gentile program and God's direct care and focus on Israel shifted to the Church.  Israel, as a nation rejected Christ and then rejected the advent of the church.  This rejection culminated in the final destruction of the nation of Israel in 70 AD.  From that day, up to the German holocaust, Israel had been the most persecuted and despised group of people on earth.  Despite this hatred and persecution, the Jewish people managed to prosper and remain viable as a people group, undoubtedly, due to the direct intervention and protection of God.  Israel may have been out of direct fellowship with God, but the fact remained that God had made certain promises to Israel that can never be retracted or broken, Israel remains God's chosen people, God's elect.  This fact is demonstrated most saliently by the unlikely and unprecedented rebirth of the nation of Israel in 1948.  Israel remains a distinct people group, to whom God has promised a future redemption and kingdom.  The Church remains separate and distinct from Israel and the promises made to Israel by God.  Scripture states that we are grafted into the blessings and election of Israel, but clearly a distinct entity.

Just as the age of the Law had a distinct beginning and ending, so to the church age has a distinct beginning and will have a distinct ending at which point God will focus His full attention back on the nation of Israel to prepare them for their final redemption.  This period of time is described in Revelation chapters 4-19.  

Back to Leviticus 23, in verse 17, we notice something else that is very notable in relation to the church: You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leaven, as firstfruits to the LORD.   The fact that the bread presented before God in this instance contains leaven is very important.  In the Passover and feast of Unleavened bread, it is imperative that the bread be without leaven because that bread represented Jesus, the Bread of Life, who was without sin.   In this feast, which ushers in the church age, we see the bread contains leaven, which represents sin.  This bread is symbolic of the Church.  We come to God with our sins and seek forgiveness.  The prerequisite to salvation is that we acknowledge our sinfulness and present it before God.  I John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.  The two loaves represent the dual nature of man, we are physical and spiritual and twice dead.  Through salvation, we can escape spiritual death.  As sons of Adam, we are wholly sinful, both physically and spiritually, that is why 2 leavened loaves are presented to God as acknowledgement our fallen nature, both physically and spiritually.  It is only when we acknowledge our brokenness before God that we can receive redemption through Christ.  

Verse 18 and 19 drive this point home:  And you shall present with the bread seven lambs a year old without blemish, and one bull from the herd and two rams. They shall be a burnt offering to the LORD, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD. 
 And you shall offer one male goat for a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old as a sacrifice of peace offerings.  Jesus replaces the sin and peace offerings as the perfect sacrifice.  Through His death and resurrection, we receive forgiveness of sin and are able to attain peace with God.  Jesus is our sin and peace offering.  First we acknowledge our complete sinfulness before God, both physical and spiritual, and then we accept Christ as the perfect sacrifice to remove that sin and bring us into fellowship with God.  Notice how this comes together perfectly in the next verse.

Leviticus 23:20  And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the LORD for the priest. Once our acknowledged sinfulness is presented to God along with the sacrifice of Christ, we are made Holy unto the LORD.  We are now set apart and counted as one of the elect.  The people of Israel were called to repeat this ceremony over and over for all generations, we come to the altar once and receive forgiveness for sin once and for all.  When the Temple was destroyed by Rome, the people of Israel were no longer able to meet the requirements of the Law.  It is currently impossible for anyone to demonstrate faith by observing the Law because the Temple and sacrificial system no longer exist.  There is only one sacrifice that remains available for both Jew and gentile alike, the sacrifice of the Lamb Of God - Yeshua Ha Meshiac - Jesus Christ.  

The next verse is the last one in Leviticus that will be considered, verse 21: And you shall make a proclamation on the same day. You shall hold a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a statute forever in all your dwelling places throughout your generations. Here we see the call to cease from all work.  This is a major theme of the book of Hebrews which refers to salvation in Christ as a Sabbath rest for the believer.  We no longer work toward our salvation as all the work was accomplished by Christ on the cross.  We can now enter a rest, confident and secure in the knowledge that we are forgiven and at peace with God by virtue of the perfect sacrifice, which is Christ.  We now work to promote His kingdom and to fulfill the great commission, making disciples of all nations.  Our work is a by product of our faith and salvation.  

Leviticus 23:15-21 finds it's fulfillment in Acts 2.  God has made clear that the Feasts were for Israel and thus as a sign to them that they might recognize the time of the Messiah and His ushering in of a new age of grace.  The age of Grace will end, just as it began, just as the age of the Law had a beginning and an end.  The next age will come at the end of the age of grace and will last 7 years.  The coming age will be a program of faith in Christ mixed with specific works prescribed by Christ in Mathew 25 and reiterated by James in his epistle.  This coming age will be presided over by the Anti-Christ on one side and 144,000 Jewish followers of Christ, their converts and the nation of Israel on the other.  The "saints" and "elect" of that dispensation are separate and distinct from the saints and elect from the church age and will have a different demonstration of faith required of them.  James tells this group   "You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone."  We compare this to what Paul tells the church:  Ephesians 2:8-9  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. According to the greeting made by Paul in his letter to the Ephesian, he clearly addresses it to the saints in Christ, James address his letter to "the 12 tribes in the dispersion."  I believe this is a direct identification of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists in Revelation, "12,000 from each tribe."  The church age will end and a new age will dawn, not the age of Aquarius longed for by the humanists, but an age of reckoning for mankind, an age where God will pour out His wrath on mankind and purify Israel His chosen and elect people, preparing them as a nation to receive the kingdom He promised to them thousands of years ago.