Should Disciples of Messiah Celebrate the Biblical Feast Days?
September begins the Biblical Fall Feasts. As Christians, we have not been taught the meaning of God's Appointed Times, so we don't understand the significance of these days. If we understood them, we would see that as believers in Yeshua (Jesus), we of all people should be celebrating these feast days. Let's take a closer look at their meaning. Let's start by looking in Leviticus 23 where we will find these feast days called God's Appointed Times, His Moedim.
The Appointed Times of God
The Appointed Times of God are shadows of the Messiah. Their purpose is to reveal Messiah and God's plan of deliverance and redemption, His Good News. Leviticus 23 starts with the Spring Feasts. These feasts are feasts of remembrance because we have seen the fulfillment in Yeshua our Messiah. The first feast mentioned is the feast of Passover: the story of the Exodus and how God, by His grace, delivered the Israelites from Egypt. This story is for all of us because God has delivered every one of us from Egypt, for Egypt is symbolic of the world. The Passover lamb whose blood was shed and placed over the doorframes of their homes protected them from the death angel who came to strike down every firstborn. Yeshua our Messiah, our Passover Lamb, shed His blood so that we may be freed from the sin of death. This is why Yeshua said to His disciples, "Do this in remembrance of Me," at His last Seder meal.
The next day begins the feast of Unleavened Bread. The Israelites fled Egypt so quickly that their bread had no time to rise. When God spoke to them later (in Leviticus 23 where He gave them instructions about this feast), He said, "No leaven is to be found in your home for seven days," because leaven represents sin. If we are disciples of the Messiah, then we must follow in His footsteps, and the feast of Unleavened bread reminds us, as believers, that we need to daily crucify the flesh and rid ourselves of the bondage that sin puts us under.
The first day after the beginning of Unleavened Bread, we celebrate the feast of First Fruits. Even though this is a minor feast day (not one of God's Appointed Times that requires a holy convocation), this is the day that we celebrate the Resurrection of Yeshua (Jesus), who is the first fruits from the dead. This is the day of the barley harvest. An omer of barley, the first fruits, would be brought into the temple as a wave offering.
We also start counting the Omer for fifty days, which will lead us right up to the feast of Pentecost. This feast is the conclusion of the Passover Season. It was fifty days after the Israelites left Egypt that they arrived at Mount Sinai. It was here that God gave them His Torah and made them His chosen people. It was on this feast that God sent the Apostles and about 120 other people the Holy Spirit. What's the connection? The Holy Spirit was given as a pledge of the new covenant, when God will write His Torah on our hearts (Jeremiah 37). The Holy Spirit gives us the power to walk according to God's Word so that we can crucify the flesh, and as we live by the Spirit and walk in the Spirit, we will have the relationship with God that every disciple of Yeshua must have. The Spring Feasts are the beginning of the feasts because they tell the beginning story of redemption. It is the beginning of our walk with God. If we are to be the light to the nations, shouldn't we be telling the story through the feast days, which God, not man, has asked us to keep? Paul said, "Imitate me as I imitate Messiah." Yeshua kept these feast days; surely if they were not for His disciples, He would have told them so.
Next we will look at the Fall Feasts. The time between the spring and fall feasts represents the time that we are in right now, the time between Yeshua's first coming and His second coming, the time for the Bride of Yeshua to prepare herself for the coming of her bridegroom. The Fall Feasts are not feasts of remembrance because they have not had their fulfillment yet; they all relate to Yeshua's second coming. We celebrate these feasts as one would practice for a fire. We have fire drills so that when a fire comes, we have prepared ourselves to know what we need to do. The Fall feasts teach us how to prepare for His coming so that we will be ready. The Fall feasts are a reminder to us that Yeshua is coming, and His coming should not be like a thief in the dark. The feasts keep us alert and sober, always looking and waiting for His coming.
The first feast of the fall is the Feast of Trumpets. The Feast of Trumpets is preceded by 30 days of blowing the shofar and reciting a short declaration: "Awake, you who are sleepy and ponder your deeds. Look well into your souls and consider your deeds; let each one of you forsake his evil ways and thoughts, and return unto the Lord, so that He may have mercy on you." As believers, we always need to examine ourselves. If we do not judge ourselves, then the righteous judge will. The shofar was blown at the coronation of a king and the arrival of the bridegroom; both are represented by the Feast of Trumpets. There are three blasts of the trumpet before the culmination of time. The first was at Mount Sinai, when God betrothed His people Israel. This became the feast of Shavuot or Pentecost (Exodus 19:19). The second will be the last blast of Rosh Hashanah, the feast of Trumpets, just before the second coming of Yeshua which will herald the return of the Messiah, our eternal King and Bridegroom. The last great blast will be on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur (Matthew 24:31), which is our next feast day.
The ten days after Trumpets are called the Days of Awe, which takes us to the Day of Atonement. The ten days of Awe are the final ten days of repentance. It is the time to make things right with each other and with God. These are solemn days because it is during these days that, symbolically, the gates of heaven are open for the righteous to come in. The Day of Atonement is the holiest day on the calendar; it is on this day that the books are open. Every word and every deed that we said and did in the flesh has been recorded, and we will give an account for it all (Matthew 25:31-46). Even though now it is only symbolically, one day soon it will be the judgement day for real, and the question that will be asked is, "Is your name written in the Book of Life?" At the end of this day, there is one last, great blast of the shofar, and then the gates of heaven are closed. Now this is happening only symbolically, but one day it will be for real. Knowing this, shouldn't we take this day as a reminder that we should examine ourselves and make things right?
Five days after the Day of Atonement begins the seven day Feast of Tabernacles. The feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot, is a time of great celebration, "the season of our joy". We have made things right with God and man and our name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life. For seven days, we live in booths, "sukkahs," to represent our eternal home and our dependence on our God who is faithful to care for us and protect us; our deliverer, provider, and protector. We build these little huts and decorate them and they become our sanctuary. We eat in our sukkahs and read Scripture and praise the Lord in our sukkahs. Some people actually sleep in their huts. We invite people to celebrate with us. It's a time of feasting, represented by the marriage supper of the Lamb. It was on the feast of Tabernacles that the disciples saw Yeshua transfigure (Luke 9:28-45), and they said to Him, "Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles; one for You and one for Moses, and one for Elijah." The seventh day of the feast, the last day, is called Hoshana Rabbah, "The Great Salvation". It was on this day that Yeshua stood up and asked, "If anyone thirsts, let him come unto Me" (John 7:37-38).
It is believed that Yeshua was born during the Feast of Tabernacles. God does all His great work during His Appointed Times, and Yeshua is the fulfillment of these times; so it only makes sense that He would be born on one of these days. What did the angel say to the shepherds? "I bring you great joy." On the eighth day, it is the time called Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. The eighth day is believed to be the day that God requested man to remain in this great joy, because we are His joy for eternity. It is a day for a holy convocation, when the assembly gathers to praise the Lord and worship Him. It is also to celebrate the joy of the Torah, God's Word, which was made flesh and dwelt among men. It would have been the eighth day that Yeshua would have been circumcised. The eighth day represents the time after the millennium, the hereafter when we will live with God for eternity in great joy. Now I ask you, shouldn't we celebrate these feast days as believers in Yeshua our Messiah? It's all about our great salvation, and our future in Messiah.
The Biblical Sabbath
There is one last Appointed Time of God and that is the Biblical Sabbath. We want to see whether believers in Yeshua should be keeping the Biblical Sabbath or Sunday as their day of worship. To start, we must ask ourselves, "If God is one, then why is His word divided, and why is there one way for Jewish people and one way for Believers in Yeshua (Jesus)?" Even the Ten Commandments seem to be separated: ten for Jewish people and nine for Believers in Yeshua. Well, you may answer those questions this way: "The Old Testament has been done away with unless you're Jewish, with the exception of its historical content, because Yeshua fulfilled all that is in those books. The New Testament is for Believers because it pertains to Yeshua, which the Jewish people do not have. The nine commandments are for believers because the Biblical Sabbath is only for Jewish people; we believers in Yeshua celebrate Sunday because that's when Yeshua rose from the dead." Let's take a closer look at this line of thinking.
First, the Prophets of the Old Testament spoke many prophecies concerning Yeshua the Messiah that have not yet been fulfilled, so these books are still relevant. Second, we are Judeo-Christians, which means that we base our faith in the God and Scriptures of the Hebrews. Their history is our history, their God is our God. Our country, the United States, has based their constitution and many of their laws on the laws of God in the Hebrew Scriptures. Yeshua and His disciples and the Prophets and the people of the Bible were all Jews, God's chosen people. These are the same people that we read about and learn from and whose examples we follow in our lives if we are truly believers in Yeshua. Yeshua, the disciples, and the early congregation all kept the Biblical Sabbath; even Paul did.
Now let's look at the truth of the matter. Let's start in the beginning. Genesis 2:1-3 tells us, "Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their host. And by the seventh day God completed His work which He had done; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made." Now we must ask ourselves, if God the Creator set apart (sanctified) the seventh day and blessed it, shouldn't we be following our God's example? Is it not Him who we follow and not man? If He set apart the seventh day, shouldn't we do the same?
The book of Hebrews tells us in chapter 4 about the future rest for believers. What is this rest? Well, this is the Sabbath. Granted, not the Sabbath we celebrate every week, but one like the feast days. When we keep the Biblical Sabbath, we tell the world that first, we believe that God is the Creator of all things and second, the Sabbath represents the future when God's redeemed (Jew and Gentile believers) will rest from their works with the Creator for eternity, represented by the seventh day. It is hard to believe that there are Christians who do not believe in the actual seven days of Creation. They do not believe that we are living out 6,000 years of history to testify what Scripture tells us: a day equals a thousand years, and the seventh day is the day of rest or the time known as eternity, the afterlife, and the Messianic Era. So, if for no other reason, believers should be keeping the Biblical Sabbath because God gave it to the world, not to just one group of people.
Second, Yeshua tells us that He is the Lord of the Biblical Sabbath. He did not say, "I am the Lord of the first day." He said that the Sabbath was made for Man, not man for the Sabbath. He did not say it be made for the Jews only, but for man. Shouldn't we follow Yeshua's example, who kept the Biblical Sabbath? He never said, "I want my followers to keep the first day," nor did any of His disciples or Paul; for the Sunday Sabbath was started by the Emperor Constantine, who was a sun worshiper. He declared the Sabbath to be Sunday, which honors the sun god Mithra. In fact, he was the one who changed all the Biblical Feast days: not God, Yeshua, or the disciples, not even Paul. Not one of these ever started a new religion, nor did away with the Torah. It was Constantine who set the groundwork for what we call Christianity today.
We are to be the light of the World. How can we be that light if we are not following our Master Yeshua, the Word made flesh, our Messiah? Is there any salvation in following a man who created much of what we call Christianity today? We need to come to the truth, to the true light. We must swim upstream if necessary, but we must break away from man-made traditions and follow the one true God who does not change. We can trust Him to lead us in all truth if we seek Him and Him alone for that truth; for the years of commentary have been influenced by those who, along with Constantine, have taken out the Jewishness of the Bible and its truths that it carried.
Let's begin to celebrate God's Appointed times that are in Leviticus 23. God's Word is for everyone because He sent His only begotten Son to die for all of our sins. His Appointed Times are His times that He has designated for us to come close to Him, remember the death and resurrection of Yeshua and the giving of His Spirit in the Spring feasts, and to prepare for His second coming in the Fall feasts; and the Biblical Sabbath is a time for us to experience our eternal rest with him every week.