(Article #2 in 3 Article Series on the Gospel Revealed)
In the previous article (“The Gospel Revealed In Two Words”) we’ve already seen how “Christ crucified” is that “Lamb slain” from the foundation of the world and how every aspect of the Gospel of grace, peace, redemption, salvation, resurrection and eternal life in the Kingdom of God centers on and is conditional on what Jesus did for us on that cross. It’s why Paul preached “Christ crucified” in spreading the Gospel (I Cor. 1:23). It’s why Christ reveals himself throughout the Book of Revelation as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” From the very beginning, before the world existed, it was God’s loving plan in giving His only begotten Son for the eternal salvation of mankind. There was to be a “Lamb slain.” In the Old Testament, what Jesus would be doing on that cross was represented in every sacrifice ever done from righteous Abel’s to Abraham’s to those of the Levitical priesthood. They all pointed to that singular event on the cross. The son of man had to be “lifted up” to draw all men to himself because God loved us (John 3:14-17). Jesus said “… for this purpose I came to this hour” (John 12:27).
Knowing this, we should ask ourselves if there is a great significance we should focus on concerning the Holy Days because of all the additional sacrifices being made by the priests during God’s festival seasons. After all, we already know that the true meaning of each Holy Day spiritually pictures an aspect of God’s plan of salvation. God’s festival seasons begin showing Christ our Passover who is sacrificed for us, and they end on the last 8th day Festival picturing the New Jerusalem coming down where we’ll be with our Father and the Lamb for all eternity. Is there another deep meaning and spiritual intent being revealed to us based on what was going on in the tabernacle and the Temple with the sons of Aaron during what was for them the bloodiest days of the year? For the priests, apart from the eating of unleavened bread, dwelling in sukkahs (tabernacles) and the celebration of the harvests, they were especially busy on the Holy Days. When we take a closer look at what they were actually doing, there seems to be something more within these three festival seasons (Ex. 23:14-17; Deut. 16:16; Lev. 23) that God wants to reveal through His Spirit to those He has called. Why does God want us to understand even more about how He has revealed His Gospel in shadow form through His Holy Days? In the remainder of this article we will take a closer look at how God wants us to make additional spiritual connections from the shadow to the true, so we can better “…worship the Father in spirit and in truth for the Father seeks such to worship Him. God is spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24).
Let’s now begin by taking a fresh look at the words of the Torah with their true intention in mind and not just the shadow form of what they meant to most of the ancient Israelites whose hearts were closed or to the Jews in Paul’s day who had a veil placed over their eyes. For example, knowing what the sacrificed lamb really pictures, nothing seems to figuratively shout out to us “Christ crucified” more than seeing the large extra number of lambs slain during the three festival seasons that God revealed to ancient Israel (read Numbers 28 & 29).
After they crossed over the Jordan River, throughout all of Israel’s history every day in the morning and in the evening there was to be the sacrifice of a lamb without spot (Num. 28:3). As can be seen in the rest of Num. 28 & 29, on the Holy Days they sacrificed a lot more lambs without spot along with bullocks, rams and goats. To the sons of Aaron, sacrificing an extra seven or even fourteen lambs without spot (Feast of Tabernacles) every day on the festival days were simply instructions to be obeyed. They had no concept of the Son of God being slain as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. To the Israelites all they could understand from what was revealed to them in the Torah about the holy days was that many of the festivals were tied into their exodus experience when God brought them out of Egypt. After the death angel passed over them, when escaping from captivity in Egypt, they ate unleavened bread (Deut. 16:3) and also dwelt in booths (Lev. 23:43). The festivals also centered on the harvest seasons beginning with the greening of the ears of barley starting the month of Abib. The first of the first fruits of the barley harvest was offered in the wave sheaf offering during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the celebration of the barley harvest was on Pentecost and the larger wheat harvest was celebrated at the Feast of Tabernacles.
God divided His Holy Days into three festival seasons which are considered pilgrimage festivals. “Three times you shall keep a feast to Me in the year” (Ex. 23:14 and see also Deut. 16:16). The first season is called “Passover” or “the Feast of Unleavened Bread” and it includes both the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Luke 22:1; II Chron. 8:13). When those with His Spirit read the New Testament they can see how Paul, writing to the Corinthians around the Passover time, used the exodus experience of the Israelites to point to Christ and how it relates to a Christian’s own exodus from sin. In I Cor. 10:1-4 he wrote, “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them and that Rock was Christ.” In I Cor. 5:7-8 he wrote, “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” The spiritual intent of the spring festival pointed to Christ who is our Passover and the Bread of Life (John 6:35; also read vs. 32-50). We have been freed from the way of sin and death. We are redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (I Pet. 1:19).
Besides Christ being our Passover who was sacrificed for us through whom we are unleavened, we can spiritually see Him also being the wave sheaf offering being accepted by the Father on that first day of the week after He was resurrected from the dead (John 20:17). Then seven weeks later the Holy Spirit was poured out on the 120 disciples who were gathered on the Feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). For the next festival (Trumpets) we know that we will be changed and meet Him in the air at the last trumpet (I Cor. 15:52). In Heb. 8-10 we can see how Christ is our Atonement and our High Priest in a heavenly sanctuary. In Heb. 10:19-20 we have access to “the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which he consecrated for us, through the veil, that is His flesh….”
Both Peter and Paul use the typology of the temporary tabernacles of the Israelites with the temporary existence of the flesh. Peter (foreseeing his own imminent death) wrote how he must shortly put off “this my tabernacle” (II Pet. 1:14). Likewise, Paul wrote, “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (II Cor. 5:1). There are many other aspects of those festivals, including the resurrection of those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life in the harvests, which time won’t permit us to cover in this short article. Nevertheless, as mentioned before, all the additional lambs, goats, rams and bullocks being sacrificed on those particular festival days seem to figuratively shout out to those with His Spirit “Christ crucified.” Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth is the reason God gave ancient Israel these physical days. They spiritually point to or foreshadow Christ. It is this deeper spiritual intent behind the Old Testament meanings of those festival seasons that we need to concentrate on to worship God the Father in spirit and in truth as Jesus said true worshipers must do (John 4:23-24).
While most who call themselves Christians today are unaware of or ignore the 3 festival seasons thinking they are only about ancient physical Israel, they fail to see the deep Christ-centered truth of what God’s Holy Days foreshadowed. Then there are some who do celebrate these days described in Ex. 23:14-17, Deut. 16:16 and Lev. 23 who sadly primarily focus on the physical Old Testament meaning without the deeper consideration of what all of those extra lambs without spot or blemish being slain are trying to tell us.
When Paul wrote the book of Hebrews his message to the Jews was not about matzo crackers and dwelling in sukkahs (tabernacles), but about the meaning of the temple, the sacrificial system, the role of the high priest and how it all related to the true tabernacle in Heaven and the fulfillment of all these by Jesus Christ whose sacrifice was accepted by the Father and is sitting at His right hand today. It’s about the faith of the holy people of God throughout the millennia who were looking for that coming heavenly city whose builder and maker is God. It was all about the role of Jesus Christ in His fulfillment and active purpose in our lives today. The emphasis in Hebrews was not the same as that of Rabbinic Judaism, which evolved from the Pharisees after the destruction of the temple.
The true spiritual intent of the holy days were reflected in the actions of the sons of Aaron serving in either the tabernacle or the temple. Again, to them, these were the bloodiest days of the year. All the Passover lambs, all the extra lambs without spot along with the bullocks, goats and rams being killed on those Holy Days has a special spiritual meaning for Christians.
Those Christians wanting to spiritually observe these days should always be mindful that these celebrations only occur because of “Christ crucified”. Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us (then a seven-day spring festival is held). The outpouring of the Holy Spirit (the Comforter) on Pentecost is because of the resurrected Christ (John 16:7). Jesus is also recognized as our Atonement (then a seven-day fall festival is held followed by the Last Great Day). It’s through the resurrection of the crucified Christ that we have access to the Father. He is the Lamb that was slain. Salvation is only through Jesus Christ justifying, sanctifying and glorifying us.
The cross of Christ is the pivotal point in human history whereby people of faith can become new creatures in Christ and receive eternal salvation. Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:53-54). “Christ crucified” (“Lamb slain”) is central to the gospel. It is the gospel in 2 words (see previous article, “The Gospel Revealed in Two Words”). It is also central to the meaning of those 3 festival seasons.
We can see how those 3 festival seasons are so much more than just memorial festivals of God’s dealings with the physical nation of Israel. For those granted spiritual eyes to see and understand, the festivals begin with Christ, our Passover who was sacrificed for us and through Him we are justified to a sanctified state (unleavened). He was the wave-sheaf offering accepted by the Father then, through His Holy Spirit, He dwells in us continuing to help us overcome the pulls of the flesh by His Holy Spirit which was given to His disciples beginning on the Feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). In Col. 1:26-27 we read how the mystery is Christ in you, the hope of glory (glorification). In Gal. 2:20 Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ: it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Jesus was crucified for the sins of each of us. We have died to those sins with Christ (having been justified by His blood there is an ongoing sanctification process). We are now alive by the same faith Christ has in His Father’s agape love and true righteousness– living in the “ministry of the Spirit,” the “ministry of righteousness” in a New Covenant relationship (II Cor. 3:6-9). Paul wrote, “…we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all…. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (Heb. 10:10, 14).
Paul preached “Christ crucified”. This can be seen in those 3 festival seasons.
Christ crucified was in the Passover.
Christ crucified was in Pentecost.
Christ crucified is also in all the Fall Holy Days.
Some may ask “how is Christ crucified seen in the fall Holy Days”? The answer is seen clearly in the book of Revelation. Starting with the first fall festival, in the end time, who is worthy to open the seals so when the last one is opened the Trumpets sound? Rev. 5:6 reads, “And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain….” V-8 “Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb….” In v-11 the entire host of heaven is saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing.” The resurrection occurs at the last trump when Christ returns (I Cor. 15:52). Throughout the entire book of Revelation, Christ primarily reveals himself to John (and the seven churches) as “The Lamb”. That’s the primary way He wanted the brethren to view their glorified Messiah.
How will His Kingdom be established? Rev. 17:14 says that the kings with the beast “…will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called chosen and faithful.”
Christ crucified is also in the Atonement. The Lamb slain (Christ crucified) will bring the restitution of all things. The Lamb will make the world at one with God. One in agape love and one in true godly righteousness through His Spirit. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He is our sin offering, our atonement and our high priest. He is the resurrection and the life of all peoples who, after having tabernacling in human flesh, will be part of a great harvest. In Rev. 19 we can read about the marriage supper of the Lamb. In Rev. 21 the New Jerusalem comes down and v-22 says “But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or the moon to shine in it for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.” We will be there on that 8th Last Great Day. Rev. 13:8 says those names are “written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
From the beginning of the feast days with Passover to the Last Great Day those days are all about the “Lamb slain” (“Christ crucified”). As those three festival seasons picture, we rejoice at all three seasons because He came (past), He has come (present) and He is coming again (future). By “Christ crucified” we are justified by His blood (Passover), we are sanctified through His Spirit (Pentecost) and we will be glorified at His coming (Tabernacles). This is good news for mankind! Those three festival seasons in the year picture Christ’s ministry of justification, sanctification and glorification.
It is because of “Christ crucified” we have justification. Paul wrote that we are justified by His blood (Rom. 5:9). It is because of “Christ crucified” we have sanctification. Heb. 10:10 says, “We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Also, Heb. 13:12 says, “Therefore Jesus also that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate.” It is because of “Christ crucified” we have glorification. He will raise us up at the last day (John 6:40, 44). We have eternal life because “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (v-54). This is why Paul spread the gospel preaching “Christ crucified” because the “cross of Christ” encompasses His complete past, present and future plan of salvation for each one of us. He is our justification (Passover), sanctification (Pentecost) and glorification (Tabernacles). During those three festival seasons we rejoice because He came (Passover), He has come (Pentecost) and He is coming again (Tabernacles). He was (Passover), yet is (Pentecost) and is to come (Tabernacles). He’s our yesterday, today and forever. Truly, He is “the reason for the season” of the holy days and our focus during those festival seasons should be on our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ and all that He has done, is doing in our lives and will do when He returns.
This connection with the 3 festival seasons will be seen even more clearly if you will continue on with the next article titled, “The Gospel Revealed in the 3 Writings of John the Apostle.” In it we will see how John’s 3 writings (the Gospel of John, the Epistles of John and the Book of Revelation) tie perfectly in with the 3 Festival seasons of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles.
Brethren, the purpose of these three “Gospel Revealed” articles is to have us, as God’s people, focus on the centrality of “Christ crucified” in our lives, in our instruction and in our understanding as we worship in spirit and in truth, yielding to God’s Spirit within us, maturing us to the perfection of agape love. “Christ crucified”, the “Lamb slain”, is the trunk of the tree of the Gospel and it’s central in revealing what our focus needs to be during the festival seasons. It brings more appreciation and joy during the feast days as we celebrate our relationship with God our Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, through whom we have reconciliation, adoption and hope.
It is my prayer that these three articles will help encourage you into further study on this subject as we all grow in the grace and knowledge of God our Father and His Son Jesus Christ, that our relationship with them will increase as we yield to His indwelling Holy Spirit. For some brethren in the independent church fellowships, it seems that too much time has been spent entrenching themselves on various doctrinal issues, calendar timings, sacred names and Hebraic shadows so that the gospel, which centers on the cross of Christ, has become of no effect. For some of the corporate churches (WCG breakaway groups) too much time is spent on the Holy Days reading about Israel’s application of Lev. 23 and what Moses said with little time focused on the cross of Christ and what Jesus and His Apostles said. Spending too much time in Lev. 23 makes it easy for us to become more like shadow worshipers who are, like the old saying goes, unable to see the forest because of the trees. The most important shadow of all during those 3 festival seasons was that of Our Savior on a cross symbolized in all of those extra sacrifices of lambs without spot or blemish. Again, for the priests, with all the lambs, rams and bullocks being killed during those 3 festival seasons it was the bloodiest time of the year for them. It was that way for a reason and the message should be clear to us as Christians today. What is important is that we now concentrate on the centrality of Christ crucified and His ministry of justification, sanctification and glorification in each of us as new creatures in Christ. That is how the Gospel is revealed in God’s holy days—understanding the True and concentrating on it alone.
So with the Gospel of Christ crucified being revealed in the holy days how should we as Christians be conducting our lives? For you and I as individuals, that period of time from when we received the Holy Spirit (Pentecost) until we meet Christ in the air at the last trump (Trumpets) is when we are to concentrate on living sanctified lives through yielding to the Holy Spirit working in us, perfecting God’s agape love and His true righteousness in each of His new creatures in Christ. It is by grace we are saved through faith, and we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works (Eph. 2:9-10). Through Christ in us we are to be like salt & light to the world so that by our good works our Father in Heaven will be glorified. Contrariwise, if at work or to the neighbors you or I are “Mr. Negativity”, always looking out for #1, laughing at off color jokes (going along to get along) etc. then God is not being glorified. We are not being salt & light reflecting Christ in us. We cannot effectively share the gospel with others unless we are first living the gospel. Through God’s Holy Spirit within us, we should exemplify those words of love expressed in I Cor. 13. All men will know we are Christ’s disciples by our love for one another (John 13:35). The fruit of the Spirit and not the works of the flesh should be evident to our neighbors, coworkers and family members in how we conduct our lives. Walking in holiness and living sanctified lives is what was emphasized by all the Apostles. Someone once said you could summarize Paul’s epistles to the churches with this one phrase: “you once were… you now are… so live what you are.” We all need to live sanctified lives and say as Paul said that by the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, “…the world has been crucified to me and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14). That you “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:2-3). Therefore, “… let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:1-2).
Written by Lee Lisman
(Please click below to continue to the 3rd of this 3 article series about the Gospel Revealed titled “The Gospel Revealed in the 3 Writings of John the Apostle” to see how this all ties together in John’s writings).