Festivals of Hope

Festivals of Hope

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What annual festivals occur early in the spring?

“On the fourteenth day of the first month [of the Hebrew calendar] at twilight is the LORD’s Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; seven days you must eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it … The seventh day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it” (Leviticus 23:5-8 Leviticus 23:5-8 5 In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’s passover. 6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread to the LORD: seven days you must eat unleavened bread. 7 In the first day you shall have an holy convocation: you shall do no servile work therein. 8 But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: you shall do no servile work therein.
American King James Version×
).

The two early-spring festivals are the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The sacrificial lamb was slain on the Passover (the 14th of Nisan), and the Days of Unleavened Bread were observed for seven days from the beginning of the 15th of Nisan to the end of the 21st day. It was during these days that ancient Israel marched out of the land of Egypt toward Mount Sinai.

What did the Passover service mean to the ancient Israelites?

“And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians’ ” (Exodus 12:26-27 Exodus 12:26-27 26 And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say to you, What mean you by this service? 27 That you shall say, It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

“Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, ‘Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb. And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning. For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you’ ” (Exodus 12:21-23 Exodus 12:21-23 21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said to them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover. 22 And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the basin; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning. 23 For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he sees the blood on the lintel, and on the two side posts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you.
American King James Version×
).

The ancient Israelites knew that the firstborn in each family was spared from death only because God could see the blood of sacrificed lambs at the entrances to their houses. Throughout Egypt all those living in houses not having their entrances smeared with the blood of these sacrificed lambs lost their firstborn. But the families of Israel, being obedient to God’s command to sacrifice a lamb, were delivered from death. Their firstborn did not perish.

Does God still expect us to observe the Passover?

“And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you and your sons forever” (Exodus 12:24 Exodus 12:24And you shall observe this thing for an ordinance to you and to your sons for ever.
American King James Version×
).

God instituted the Passover, and all His other festivals, as continual, enduring and permanent observances (compare Leviticus 23:14 Leviticus 23:14And you shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that you have brought an offering to your God: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
American King James Version×
; Leviticus 23:21 Leviticus 23:21And you shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation to you: you shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.
American King James Version×
; Leviticus 23:31 Leviticus 23:31You shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
American King James Version×
; Leviticus 23:41 Leviticus 23:41And you shall keep it a feast to the LORD seven days in the year. It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: you shall celebrate it in the seventh month.
American King James Version×
). The word translated “forever” in these verses usually means perpetual rather than eternal. In other words, these festivals were given as permanent festivals, observances we should keep throughout our physical existence. God never intended them to be mere temporary observances that we would discard at a later date, as is commonly taught today (be sure to read “What Did Paul Really Say in Colossians 2:16? ,” page 12).

What meaning does the Passover have for Christians?

“For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7 1 Corinthians 5:7Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
American King James Version×
).

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake” (1 Peter 1:18-20 1 Peter 1:18-20 18 For as much as you know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20 Who truly was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
American King James Version×
, NIV; compare Exodus 12:3-6 Exodus 12:3-6 3 Speak you to all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: 4 And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: you shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: 6 And you shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.
American King James Version×
).

The apostles Paul and Peter understood that the slain Old Testament Passover lamb foreshadowed the death of Jesus Christ as our sacrifice for sin.

Notice the reaction of John the Baptist to Jesus: “… John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29 John 1:29The next day John sees Jesus coming to him, and said, Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.
American King James Version×
). John also understood the symbolic and prophetic relationship of the Old Testament Passover to the work and mission of Jesus the Messiah.

God’s plan for the redemption of mankind begins with Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. Amazing as it may seem, this first step in God’s master plan of salvation has been observed since the days of Moses in the Passover festival (Hebrews 11:24-28 Hebrews 11:24-28 24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; 25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; 26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect to the recompense of the reward. 27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. 28 Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.
American King James Version×
). Through the observance of His sacred festivals, God had ancient Israel act out, every year, the major steps in His plan of human redemption. Our redemption begins with our accepting Christ’s sacrifice for our sins.

Was Jesus aware of the relationship between His crucifixion and the Passover?

“Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, that He said to His disciples, ‘You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified’ ” (Matthew 26:1-2 Matthew 26:1-2 1 And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, 2 You know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.
American King James Version×
).

“Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (John 13:1 John 13:1Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them to the end.
American King James Version×
).
Did Jesus look forward to participating in the Passover service with His disciples?

“Then came the day … on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover’ ” (Luke 22:7-8 Luke 22:7-8 7 Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed. 8 And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

“When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. Then He said to them, ‘With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer’ ” (Luke 22:14-15 Luke 22:14-15 14 And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer:
American King James Version×
).

“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’ ” (Matthew 26:26-28 Matthew 26:26-28 26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink you all of it; 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

On the night before His death Jesus instituted the New Testament Passover service. Anciently, lambs were sacrificed as forerunners of Christ’s sacrificial death on the Passover. But Jesus instituted new symbols of His suffering and death—unleavened bread and wine.

Should Christians continue observing the New Testament Passover service?

“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy [irreverent] manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:23-27 1 Corinthians 11:23-27 23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered to you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24 And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do you, as oft as you drink it, in remembrance of me. 26 For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till he come. 27 Why whoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

Paul shows that the earliest Christians not only observed this festival annually—with its new symbols of bread and wine that Christ instituted to represent His suffering and death—but also that all Christians should continue observing it until Christ returns. Even then Jesus indicates it will continue in His Kingdom (Matthew 26:29 Matthew 26:29But I say to you, I will not drink from now on of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.
American King James Version×
).

Since it is a memorial, this God-given event should be observed only once every year as God has commanded (Numbers 9:2-3 Numbers 9:2-3 2 Let the children of Israel also keep the passover at his appointed season. 3 In the fourteenth day of this month, at even, you shall keep it in his appointed season: according to all the rites of it, and according to all the ceremonies thereof, shall you keep it.
American King James Version×
)—not at our discretion nor on some weekly or monthly schedule. This festival should be observed on the exact annual date that is the anniversary of Christ’s death for our sins—the annual Passover festival in the spring of each year—and in the proper manner as described above. (For the correct dates for all of God’s festivals see “The Annual Festivals of God “.)

Christ’s supreme sacrifice by means of His crucifixion —which occurred precisely on the biblically commanded Passover date—is the foundation of the Christian faith. It reflects the all-encompassing love God has for His creation and His concern for the ultimate well-being of every human being (John 3:16 John 3:16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
American King James Version×
).