In Part 1 of this series [see: God’s Feasts and the Jews – Part 1], we discussed briefly the command of God to observe His weekly Sabbath and His feasts (Leviticus 23) and how His people — the nation Israel — kept these feasts at the start. Then we saw how the kingdom of Israel split during the reign of King Rehoboam, and how the southern Kingdom of Judah continued to observe these feasts, while the northern Kingdom of Israel (under its first king Jeroboam) forsook these feasts and established festivals which he “devised in his own heart.”
We reviewed how spotty the observance of these feasts by the Jews had been in their centuries-long history. Then we discussed how Jesus observed the Passover differently from the Jews of His day. We continue this series here, covering the next feasts of God: the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Trumpets.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Jews
During this seven-day feast (after they had observed their first-ever Passover), the children of Israel underwent several events, within and outside of Egypt, as God ordained. As the people did so, they acted out certain steps in God’s plan of saving all mankind (not just Israel or the Jews) from bondage to sin and death. [At this point, let it be made clear that the Jews constitute but one tribe (Judah — Jews, for short) among the 12 sons of Jacob, later renamed Israel. The name “Israel” was not given to the Jews but rather to the children of Joseph (Genesis 48:8-16). See: God’s Kingdom and Israel. Since, among the 12 tribes the Jews alone have kept the Feasts of God, we treat here on how the Jews have observed these feasts.]
There are three major events pictured by the first observance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread by the children of Israel: 1) going out of Egypt, 2) sojourning in the wilderness, and 3) crossing the Red Sea.
1. Going out of Egypt. This was the beginning of Israel’s “exodus” out of Egypt. It happened in the night of the 15th day of the first month (Nisan or Abib) in the Hebrew calendar. As explained in the section on the Passover in Part 1 of this article, the proper night in which the Passover lamb was slain was the eve of the 14th day, as the 13th day was ending. As God commanded the children of Israel, they were not to go out of their homes that night when the death angel would “pass over” their homes and would spare their firstborn (Exodus 12:21-24). Thus, it had to be the next evening, the 15th, when they marched out of Egypt (Verses 40-42), after they had “plundered” the Egyptians in the daylight part of the 14th (Verses 35-36).
In God’s plan of salvation, this phase clearly pictures one thing: once the Passover lamb has been slain, one must be ready to leave Egypt [symbol of sin] — and bring unleavened bread [symbol of righteousness or being without sin ] with him (Verses 33-34, 37-39). Some believe that the unleavened bread symbolizes Jesus Christ, who lived a sinless life (Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22). Indeed, one must partake of Christ (who said He is the “bread of life…the living bread,” John 6:48, 51) through His Spirit and words (Verse 63). One must let Christ live His perfect life in one’s own life (Galatians 2:19-20).
God also commands that one observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread by putting away leaven and leavened food through all the seven days of the feast (Exodus 12:18-20). Jesus said to the lame man whom He healed and the woman about to be stoned for adultery whom He forgave, “…sin no more” (John 5:14; 8:11). In other words, after God forgives us of our sins, we are to turn from the way of sin and begin to walk in the opposite direction: obeying the law of God.
The apostle Paul pictured this well when he instructed God’s people in Corinth: “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened [freed from sin; how?]. 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” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).
As the one used by God to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt, Moses set the example by “choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin [such as Egypt offered, and thus Egypt symbolizes sin], esteeming the reproach of Christ [Moses was reproached by Egypt for obeying his God — the God who later became Christ; see: The True Christ] greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he looked to the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn [of Egypt] should touch them” (Hebrews 11:24-28).
In contrast, the later generations of Jews have kept the Passover on the wrong night — the night of the 15th instead of the 14th. What they have done is to combine the Passover and the observance of the night the children of Israel went out of Egypt. Thus the Jews find themselves eating their Passover lamb on the night they should have gone out of Egypt! According to God’s command on the Passover, the children of Israel were to eat the Passover in their homes, and remain there the whole night until the next morning, to burn any remains of the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:6-10). This is plain disregard of God’s instructions to Moses — and for which Moses judges the Jews! Thus the Jews have also shown their rejection of Christ as the true Passover lamb, and — if they had followed that part of God’s instructions through Moses, for them to remain in their homes to eat the Passover — they would have remained in “Egypt” that night of the 15th when they should have gotten out of Egypt!
This is nothing but confusion! And God is not the author of it (1 Corinthians 14:33)!
Jesus told the Jews: “I do not receive honor from men. But I know you, that you do not have the love of God [the keeping of God’s commandments, 1 John 5:3] in you. I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you — Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words“(John 5:41-47)?
By having rejected both Moses and Jesus, the Jews have thus remained in their spiritual “Egypt” — in sin!
2. Sojourning in the wilderness. Once they had observed the Passover and left their dwellings in Egypt, the children of Israel were off on their long journey to the land which God had promised to their fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: Canaan (Genesis 12:5-9; 26:1-5; 28:4, 10-15). “So they took their journey from Succoth and camped in Etham at the edge of the wilderness. And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people” (Exodus 13:20-22).
In the next several days [the days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread] the children of Israel, with their livestock and other earthly goods, walked through this wilderness. They were still in high spirits after having had their first taste of liberty from their Egyptian bondage. And they had God’s protective presence 24/7!
Then, the unexpected happened! Learning that at some point in their journey the Israelites were trapped between a mountain pass and the sea, Egypt’s Pharoah and his army pursued the children of Israel (Exodus 14:1-12). The king of Egypt wanted to bring the children of Israel back to Egypt to make them slaves again as before (Verses 5-9).
As the Pharoah and his army closed in on them, the children of Israel became afraid, cried out to the LORD — and then complained to Moses for leading them to this death trap (Verses 10-12). They told Moses that he should not have brought them out of Egypt, that he should have left them alone to continue to serve the Egyptians. They feared that they would die in the wilderness.
Isn’t this similar to what a person who has decided to turn away from sin [symbolized by Egypt] goes through? After experiencing the euphoria of being liberated from sin and death through the blood of the Passover lamb [symbolizing Jesus Christ, who was sacrificed for the forgiveness of our sins], we find ourselves walking through some wilderness [symbolic of the trials and rigors while walking the “strait and narrow way” (Matthew 7:13-14)]. And before long, we find ourselves being run after by Satan and his demons [symbolized by the Pharoah and his army]. We become afraid, confused, discouraged, and we may even think to go back to our previous life of sin, as the children of Israel (including the Jews) complained and wanted to return to Egypt.
It is then that, in time, God sends us His deliverance and salvation. Let us look now at the third event that took place when the children of Israel were winding up their observance of their first Feast of Unleavened Bread, and what meaning it holds for us.
3. Crossing the Red Sea. Can you imagine what the children of Israel would have felt as they heard the thundering roar of chariots fast approaching, and they saw themselves trapped between a narrow mountain pass and the sea? You would feel terrified, even panic, too! But notice what God inspired Moses to tell the children of Israel: “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace” (Exodus 14:13-14).
Thus we have the famous “exodus” by the children of Israel through the Red Sea, which God miraculously parted when Moses stretched his rod over the waters. “So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left” (Exodus 14:21-22). Just as the last of the Israelites had crossed over to the opposite shore of the sea, God clapped back the parted waters, thus drowning and killing the pursuing army of Pharoah (Verses 23-30). [See: The Real Red Sea Crossing.]
It is quite possible that this Red Sea crossing took place in the evening of the 7th day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. During the daylight part of that day, the children of Israel celebrated their victory over the hosts of Egypt’s Pharoah. They acknowledged that it was the LORD God who “triumphed gloriously,” as a “man of war,” over the Egyptian army (Exodus 15:1, 3, 21).
The meaning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, according to Paul, is to put away the “leaven of malice and wickedness” from our lives so that we may become “a new lump…truly…unleavened” (1 Corinthians 5:8) — that is, without sin. The wilderness journey during the Feast of Unleavened Bread by the children of Israel since they came out of Egypt shows that, in the midst of the hardships of striving to be without sin, God was with them in the form of “fire by night, cloud by day.”
In the face of severe trials that Christians experience — to the point where Satan would pressure them to return to sin — the Red Sea crossing assures them that God will give them the victory over sin. And that through His divine intervention!
The next occasion recorded in the Old Testament for the children of Israel to have observed the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (after the event mentioned in Numbers 9:1-5) was in the plains of Jericho, with Joshua (who succeeded Moses at his death) leading them (Joshua 5:10-12). It would seem that the seven days during which the children of Israel marched around the walls of Jericho, as God had commanded them (Joshua 6:1-17; Josephus also affirms this in his Antiquities of the Jews, Book V, Chapter 1, Section 5), took place during the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread. It was on the seventh day of their marching (which could have been also the seventh day of the feast) that the walls of Jericho went tumbling down — and that by God’s supernatural, miraculous power [the blowing of trumpets and the shouts of the people could not, alone, have toppled those walls!]. Joshua said to the people: “Shout, for the LORD has given you the city! Now the city shall be doomed by the LORD to destruction” (Joshua 6:16-17). [See: Breaking Down our “Walls of Jericho.”]
In both their Red Sea crossing and their conquest of Jericho on the seventh day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread by the children of Israel, we receive God’s assurance that we can conquer sin — not on our own strength, but by the power of God!
The irony is that the children of Israel, not having God’s Spirit and not heeding God’s warnings, soon forgot God’s wondrous deliverance, forgot God’s laws and instead worshiped idols (Deuteronomy 8:2, 11-20; 9:7-11; 15:15; 16:3, 12; Judges 3:7-8; 1 Samuel 12:9-10; Psalm 78:5-64; 106:6-43; 1 Corinthians 10:1-11). God punished them in His righteous judgment, but promised them deliverance when they repented and called on Him. Such was the history of Israel as recorded in the book of Judges.
It is only by the power of God that man can overcome sin. The Feast of Unleavened Bread thus foreshadows the need for the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, to enable man to overcome sin and live a righteous and holy life before God. This outpouring of the Holy Spirit is pictured by the next feast of God — the Feast of Weeks or the Day of Pentecost — which we shall discuss later. [For an explanation of the relationship between God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, see: The Trinity Doctrine Reconsidered.]
Because the Jews have rejected Jesus as their Messiah and Savior from sin, they have remained in their sins to this day. As the first Christian martyr, Stephen, told the Jews, they have thus resisted the Holy Spirit — the Spirit of Christ — and therefore could not obey the law as delivered to them by Moses (Acts 7:51-53). [See: God’s Spirit and Obedience and Moses and Jesus — Are They Contraries?]
A special note on the “wave sheaf offering”
As in the issue of which night the Passover lamb was to be eaten, there has also been a controversy about when the “wave sheaf offering” rituals (commanded in Leviticus 23:9-11) were to be performed. The Jews had traditionally cut the “first of the firstfruits” of their early spring harvest (usually the earlier-fruiting barley) soon after the Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (which the Jews also call the Passover). The first sheaf (Hebrew, omer) thus cut was to be waved by the priest on the day after that Sabbath.
The controversy lies in which Sabbath is referred to in the above-mentioned scripture. The Jews believe this Sabbath to be the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which indeed is a special “annual” or “high” Sabbath (Leviticus 23:7, compared with Verses 24-25; Numbers 28:17-18). However, during the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread, there is also the weekly or seventh-day Sabbath (Saturday in the Gregorian calendar).
Which is the right Sabbath? How could we know, from the Scriptures, which Sabbath is referred to by Leviticus 23:9-11?
There are two ways we can verify this from the Scriptures: 1) by tracing the exact day of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection in that year 31 A.D., and 2) by the tell-tale evidence of how Christ’s disciples observed the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) and where the Jews were at that time.
The only sign which Jesus gave to the Jews as to His being the prophesied Messiah was the “sign of Jonah.” Just as the prophet Jonah had been in the belly of the giant fish for three days and three nights before he was spat out, alive, by the fish, so Jesus would be in the grave three days and three nights, after which He would rise again — be resurrected (Matthew 12:39-40).
If we examine when the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread occurred in that year 31 A.D., according to the Jewish or Hebrew calendar, the Passover (14th day of the first month, Nisan or Abib) would have been on the 4th day of the week or what the Gregorian calendar calls “Wednesday” — the day Jesus died. The previous night (which would be the beginning of the 14th day of that month, but would be called “Tuesday” night in today’s calendar) was when Jesus ate the Passover with His disciples, as explained in Part 1 of this series [see: God’s Feasts and the Jews — Part 1].
After Jesus died in the afternoon of that 14th day of Nisan, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus hurried to take down and prepare Jesus’ body for burial before “the Sabbath drew near” (Luke 23:50-54; John 19:38-42). That Sabbath was not the weekly Sabbath but the “high” Sabbath — the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which started in the evening of the 5th day of the week (Thursday in the Gregorian calendar) that year 31 A.D.
In fulfillment of the “sign of Jonah,” then, Jesus would have been in the grave all night of Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday and all day of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday — a total of three days and three nights. Jesus’ resurrection would then have been towards the end of that Saturday or weekly Sabbath.
Jesus’ disciples visited His tomb on the first day of the week — Sunday in today’s calendar (John 20:1, etc.,; Luke 24:1; Mark 16:2; Matthew 28:1) — early in the morning. They found the tomb empty. Why? Jesus had been resurrected the night before!
A curious statement Jesus made to the first disciple to ever see Him in His resurrected state, Mary Magdalene, gives us an inkling about the meaning of the “wave sheaf offering.” After Jesus had revealed Himself to Mary, He told her: “Do not cling to Me [the famous Latin phrase ‘Noli Me tangere‘ –‘Touch Me not’], for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God'” (John 20:17).
The sheaf (Hebrew, omer) as the first of the first ripe harvest of the early spring barley crop pictured the risen Christ as the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep [died]” (1 Corinthians 15:20). This omer is different from the omer as a dry measure of grain or meal (the equivalent of about two quarts), which many Jews take the omer in Leviticus 23:9-11 to mean. The ” sheaf” is a stalk of ripe grain — the same meaning of omer as we find in Deuteronomy 24:19; Ruth 2:7, 15; and Job 24:10.
The reaping of grain crop pictures the “harvest of souls” — those righteous souls to be saved, those wicked souls to be condemned (Matthew 13:24-30, 37-43). Jesus is the first-ever of human beings to be resurrected to everlasting life. Those who are His will also be resurrected or changed to immortality, at His return (1 Corinthians 15:22-23).
The sheaf which was waved by the priest the day after the weekly Sabbath pictured the risen Christ presenting Himself to the Father that same morning in which Jesus told Mary to not touch Him as yet. Later that day, after He had ascended to heaven and had come back to earth, Jesus met His disciples again, and this time they “held Him by the feet and worshiped Him” (Matthew 28:9).
By counting the 50 days from the time of the waving of the wave sheaf offering on the first day of the week, we will come up to the Day of Pentecost as falling also on the first day of the week (Sunday in the Gregorian calendar) — the “day after the seventh [weekly] Sabbath” (Leviticus 23:18).
It is curious why, when the disciples of Jesus observed the Day of Pentecost, the Jews — unlike the disciples — were not “all in one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1). If the Jews had observed this feast as the disciples did, they would have been observing it at the temple in Jerusalem, or in their synagogues, simultaneously with the disciples. But no, the Jews were in their homes or lodging places — from where they came out when they heard “a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind” as God poured out His Spirit upon the disciples (Verses 2, 5-12, etc.). By their tradition, the Jews would have observed Pentecost (Hebrew, Shavuot) on the 6th day of the month Sivan — which in that year 31 A.D. was a Friday (6th day of the week), two days earlier than when Jesus’ disciples observed the Day of Pentecost. [More on this in the next section on the Day of Pentecost.]
For more light on this controversial matter, click on this link: http://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets and scroll down to the booklets titled “The Crucifixion Was not on Friday” and “The Resurrection Was not on Sunday.” You may also stay on the link and, instead of “Books and Booklets” select “Reference Material,” and scroll down the index to the articles titled “Calendar Summary, Hebrew” (UCG) [a rather scholarly paper regarding the controversial question on the dates and days of the Passover in 31 A.D.] and “Pentecost: Wave Sheaf Offering.”
Interestingly, the Jews have the custom of reading the Song of Songs (or the Canticles of Solomon) during the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. As most Bible students understand, this book — which depicts the passionate love of a man and a woman — symbolizes the love that Jesus has in sacrificing His life for the sins of His people Israel and the Church of God. Perhaps, without their realizing it in reading this book during this feast, the Jews thus affirm the love which the Messiah has for His people — Israel and the Church of God, both of which the LORD or the Lamb calls His “wife” or “bride” (Ezekiel 16; Jeremiah 3:11-15; Isaiah 54:5; Revelation 19:7-8). [See: God’s Kingdom and Israel.] Is it a mere coincidence that Jesus’ horrendous suffering for sinners all the way to Calvary has been called “the Passion of Christ?”
Speaking of Himself, Jesus said: “Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). In His love for sinful mankind (thus naturally “enemies” of God — Romans 5:10), those whom the Father has called to become Jesus’ “friends” receive this love: Jesus dying on their behalf to pay the ransom from their sure death otherwise (Matthew 20:28). This is pictured by the Passover. Jesus laid down His life for His “friends” — those who do whatever He commands them (John 15:14). [See: The Ransomed of the LORD.]
Jesus’ love for sinful mankind also shows in Jesus’ resurrection, as pictured by the “wave sheaf offering.” The apostle Paul boldly declares: “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17)! Jesus’ death alone, as the Son of Man, is not sufficient in the atonement for our sins! Jesus had to be resurrected as proof that He is the Son of God, with power (Romans 1:3-4). If Christ were not resurrected, He would have been a mere human being and could only pay for the life of one or a few other men –not for the life of all mankind. [See: Two Goats Together.]
The Jews have long denied that Jesus was ever resurrected from the dead. Matthew 28:11-15 declares how the Jewish leaders bribed “with a large sum” the Roman soldiers who guarded Jesus’ tomb and were witness to Jesus’ resurrection, so that they would deny the truth. And so the Jews have believed that Jesus’ resurrection is a hoax. When they still observed the “wave sheaf offering” but on a wrong day, as we explained earlier, the Jews missed the reality that this ritual pictured: Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, and its benefit or blessing to humanity. Thus the Jews are “still in [their] sins!” [Today, without a temple and high priest, the Jews have dropped observing this ritual altogether.]
Not only have the Jews rejected Jesus as the true Passover Lamb — sinless and holy — that was slain for the forgiveness of sin. They have also rejected the resurrected Jesus, whose resurrection completes our atonement for sin. As now the ever-living Lord of God’s true people, Jesus has the power to help them overcome sin and Satan — as He did in saving the children of Israel through the Red Sea and destroying for them the high walls of Jericho. Despite their efforts to obey God’s law, the Jews have been unable to do so, without the help of their sinless and holy Messiah — their Holy One whom they have rejected — and His Spirit! [See: Peter Knew “The Holy One.”] This is pictured by God’s past interventions during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, especially on the seventh or last day of the feast. [See: God’s Spirit and Obedience.]
We do not here single out the Jews as sinners, for they merely mirror the common human condition. All of mankind has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). We all need God’s intervention and help so we can conquer sin and live a life pleasing to our Creator. May God open the eyes of the Jews to His true ways! And, as God has promised, may they receive His bountiful blessings as they finally come to accept Jesus as their Messiah! May they also receive the gift of God’s Holy Spirit, which the next feast of God (Day of Pentecost) pictures as the next step in God’s plan of salvation.
The Feast of Weeks/Day of Pentecost and the Jews
As we explained in the previous section (on the “wave sheaf offering”), the Jews reckon their counting of the “50 days” not from the weekly Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread, but rather from the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover — Pesach — as the Jews also call this feast) — a “high” or annual Sabbath.
The “wave sheaf offering” [symbolizing the resurrected Christ as the “first of the firstfruits” of God] during the Feast of Unleavened Bread has a lot to do with the “two wave loaves” which were offered as the “firstfruits to the LORD” (Leviticus 23:17) during the Feast of Weeks or the Day of Pentecost. The Jews realize the connection between the two feasts; however, even among themselves they differ in reckoning the days when these offerings were to be waved.
Whereas most in the Church of God have traditionally observed Pentecost (also called the Feast of the Firstfruits or the Feast of Weeks, or the Hebrew Shavuot) always on a Sunday — a fixed day of the week — the Jews have observed Pentecost on varying days of the month. And that is because most Jews (after the Rabbinic tradition) reckon their counting of the 50 days from a fixed day of the month in the Jewish calendar — the day after the “high” Sabbath, which is the 15th day of Nisan or Abib. The day after that Sabbath — which the 16th day of Nisan or Abib — is the second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This is “day one” in the Jews’ counting of the 50 days. Fifty days from that day would bring us to varying days of the third month (Sivan), depending on adjustments in the length of months during certain years. Thus, the Jews’ Feast of Weeks does not coincide with the Day of Pentecost as observed by most in the Church of God.
Why “Feast of Weeks?”
God says that the word that comes out from His mouth “shall not return to Me void [or empty], but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). Therefore, God must have a reason for commanding His people to count seven weeks (7 x 7 = 49 days) before the Day of Pentecost.
Those who have studied the significance of numbers in the Bible understand that the number “7“ stands for completeness or perfection.
What, then, could the 49-day transition between Jesus Christ’s being resurrected and accepted by God the Father in heaven (as pictured by the “wave sheaf offering” as “first of the firstfruits”) and the Day of Pentecost or Feast of the Firstfruits mean?
We have a clue in Hebrews 12:22-23 — “But you [Church of God here on earth] have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem [not bodily for now, but in spirit — through prayer to God and the study of His Word], to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn [or “firstfruits”] who are registered in heaven [obviously in God’s “Book of Life,” Revelation 3:5; 20:12; 22:19, etc.], to the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect.”
At death the “spirit” of man goes back to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7). The spirits of “just men made perfect” [men whose names are in The Book of Life] are kept in store in heaven. God will then use those spirits as a kind of template to resurrect, to immortality at Christ’s return, those who have “died in Christ” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17). [See: What Happens to Man After Death?]
That perfection can come only through Christ being with His people and dwelling in them through His Spirit, thereby making them acceptable to God. [See: God’s Spirit and Obedience.]
The Jews who have rejected Jesus as their Messiah have thus resisted the Spirit of Christ. They will not be perfected and become a part of the “firstfruits” or “firstborn” of God — unless they repent.
May the Jews — and other men whom God calls to salvation now — realize the true meaning of the Feast of Weeks (or the Feast of the Firstfruits or Day of Pentecost), and may they become perfected in and by Christ — through His Spirit!
As explained earlier, it was during a Day of Pentecost — as narrated in Acts 2 — that God poured out His promised Holy Spirit on Christ’s disciples. That year 31 A.D., that Day of Pentecost — as the disciples very likely observed it, like those in the Church of God mostly reckon it today — fell on the 8th day of the third month (Sivan) on the first day of the week (or Sunday). The Jews then had observed their “Feast of Weeks” on a different day of the third month and on a different day of the week (the 6th day of Sivan, a Friday or 6th day of the week), two days earlier than the disciples did that year.
Without the Holy Spirit to guide them, unbelieving Jews have been unable to understand the “deep things of God” which man can understand only with the gift of that Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:9-14). Thus the Jews have been led instead into a number of errors in their observance of God feasts — relying more on their traditions than on the plain word of God. As a result, many Jews have missed out on becoming a part of God’s spiritual “firstfruits” — those who will be changed or resurrected to immortality at Christ’s return.
I once asked a Jewish rabbi if the Jews still observe the ritual of making two waves loaves and waving them before the LORD as “the firstfruits” on the Day of Pentecost as God commands in Leviticus 23:17 and 20. The answer: No. Just like in the case of the wave sheaf offering, they cannot do this without the temple and the priestly order in place in Jerusalem at this time. Again, here we can see why a good number of Jews have missed out, and will miss out, on becoming a part of God’s “firstfruits.” Their disregard of the exact details of the feast’s observance — and the spiritual significance of these details — has cost them this loss.
As also mentioned earlier, the Jews were not in assembly at the temple in Jerusalem nor in their synagogues, unlike Christ’s disciples were on that Day of Pentecost. This fact, however, paved the way for a great number of Jews (3,000) to receive God’s Spirit that day!
Notice the account in Acts 2. As God’s Spirit filled Christ’s disciples, “there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind” (Verse 2) and the disciples “began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Verse 4). This commotion attracted the attention of the people around where the disciples met. That can only mean that these people were somewhere in the vicinity — they were not assembled in the temple nor in their synagogues. The sound which they heard must have been so extraordinary that they had to come to the source to find out what this commotion was all about. And that’s where and when they heard the apostle Peter preach the gospel of Christ. Three thousand Jews were baptized that day and received God’s Spirit also.
Traditionally the Jews have believed that it was on a Feast of Weeks or Day of Pentecost that the LORD gave the Ten Commandments to Israel at Mount Sinai. This could have very well been the case, if we look at the account in Exodus 19. But then again, the Jews keep that feast on a different day than most in the Church of God does. Having missed receiving the gift of God’s Spirit, unbelieving Jews lack the power to obey God’s law!
The Jews who thought they were keeping the law of God (even as many who claim to be Christians think the same about the Jews) had this stern words from Jesus: “Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law” (John 7:19)? [See: Barking up the Wrong Tree and God’s Spirit and Obedience.]
How could the Jews have kept the law without accepting Jesus as their Messiah? The apostle Paul — that great convert from Judaism whom the Jews loved to hate — tells us: “Because the carnal mind [such as the Jews, like everybody else, have] is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be” (Romans 8:7).
Paul contrasts the carnal mind with the spiritual mind — the mind of a person who has in him “the Spirit of Christ” (Verse 9), by which one is able to “put to death the deeds of the body” (Verse 13) — turn from sin and instead obey God’s law. Having rejected Jesus as the Messiah, the Jews thus did not receive the Spirit of Christ and so could not keep God’s law. Jesus accused the Jews of laying aside — rejecting — the commandments of God so they could keep their human traditions (Mark 7:6-13; Matthew 15:1-9). [See: Did Christ Cleanse All Meats?]
Ezekiel 36:26-27 is a prophecy about the “house of Israel” — which certainly includes the Jews (the tribe of Judah) — about a time coming when God will work a change in them: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give a heart of flesh [a soft heart — willing to be led]. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” May God hasten that day! [See: God’s Spirit and Obedience and The Higher Law of the Spirit.]
The Jews traditionally read the Book of Ruth during the Feast of Weeks. This book features the faith of a non-Jew, Ruth, who was a Moabite woman. The two wave loaves that were waved by the priest on the Day of Pentecost seem appropriately to picture God’s choosing as His “firstfruits” people from both Israel and the Gentiles. [See: Predestination.]
For more explanation on the reckoning and meaning of the Day of Pentecost, click on this link: http://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Books and Booklets” and scroll down to the booklet titled “Pagan Holidays or God’s Holy Days — Which?” You may also stay on this link and, instead of “Books and Booklets” select “Reference Material” and scroll down the index to the article titled “Pentecost and its Observance” (UCG).
Revelation 7:5, 7, 8 shows that there will be some 32,000 [whether literal or symbolic] from the Jews, the Levites and the Benjamites (tribes within the kingdom or house of Judah) who will be among the 144,000 of Israel who will be “sealed” (or protected) from the coming “wrath of God” at Christ’s return (Revelation 6:16-17). Revelation 14:1-5 affirms that they will be among the “firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.” They, too, will receive everlasting life through a resurrection or change at Christ’s return, which is pictured by the next feast of God.
The Feast of Trumpets and the Jews
Famously known as Rosh Hashanah [meaning the “head” — start or beginning — of the Jewish civil year, much like countries such as the U.S.A. have their “fiscal” or “financial” year start in July instead of in January], this feast is otherwise known to the Jews as Yom Truah or Yom Teruah — the Feast of Trumpets. And famously associated with this feast is, of course, the shofar — a ram’s horn — which the Jews traditionally blow in various manners, signifying various meanings, during this day.
After reading various articles written by Jews concerning this feast, I get the sense that they understand this day to mean different things. That it is a day of groaning and wailing. That it is a day of judgment. That it is a day announcing the resurrection of the dead. That it is a wake-up call. That the shofar’s burning sound of urgency and fear is a cry of war. That it pictures the crowning of the Messiah as King of kings. That it is a call to getting right with God and fellowmen — a time of repentance.
In Leviticus 23:24-25 we have God’s command concerning this feast: “Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, you shall have a Sabbath rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.”
Revelation 8 through 19 graphically depicts the blowing of seven trumpets that will unleash the “wrath of God,” which the prophets of old had foretold, culminating in the seventh and last trumpet, during which God will pour out the “seven last plagues” (Revelation 11:5; 15:1-18:22).
The prophet Isaiah spoke of this day as one in which, by “the terror” and “the glory” of the LORD, “the lofty looks of man shall be humbled, the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down…brought low” (Isaiah 2:10-11). It is “a day of trouble and treading down and perplexity by the Lord GOD of hosts” (22:5; 37:3). It is a “day of the LORD’s vengeance” (34:8; 61:2; 63:4).
The prophet Jeremiah spoke of this day as also “a day of vengeance” upon Israel’s enemies (Jeremiah 46:10; 51:6, 11). The prophet Ezekiel spoke of this day as “a day of clouds” (Ezekiel 30:3).
The “minor” prophets echo the import of the day of God’s wrath as “a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness” (Joel 2:2; Amos 5:18-20; Zephaniah 1:14-18), a “day of battle” (Zechariah 14:3), a day “burning like an oven” which will burn up the proud and the wicked (Malachi 4:1).
The apostle Paul spoke of this day of God’s wrath in which “those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness” will receive God’s righteous judgment of “indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew [or Israel] first and also of the Greek [Gentiles] (Romans 2:5, 8-9). Paul further describes that day as “the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel” (Verse 16). The Jews — as well as the rest of mankind — will be judged by Jesus Christ, who in that day of His return “will render to each one according to his deeds” (Verse 6). [See: Saved for Good Works.]
Because the Jews have rejected Jesus as their long-awaited Messiah, their blowing of their shofar signals doom and destruction for them — a day of groaning and wailing [much like Jesus said of some of “the sons of the kingdom” [Israelites] who, at His return, will “be cast out into outer darkness,” where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12). Yom Teruah should be a wake-up call for Jews to repent and be right with their Messiah before it’s too late!
What about silver trumpets?
Besides the shofar, God also commanded the Israelites to blow silver trumpets [Hebrew, chatsotserah]. Notice this interesting detail in Numbers 10:2, 9-10:
Make two silver trumpets for yourself; you shall make them of hammered work; you shall use them for calling the congregation and for directing the movement of the camps….When you go to war in your land against the enemy who oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, and you will be remembered before the LORD your God, and you will be saved from your enemies. Also in the day of your gladness, in your appointed feasts, and at the beginning of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; and they shall be a memorial for you before your God; I am the LORD your God.
The command in Leviticus 23:24 is for the children of Israel to blow trumpets [Hebrew teruah] during this feast.Traditionally the Jews celebrate this festival by blowing ram’s horns or the shofar, which has a rough, ominous sound. As the Jews themselves admit, the sound of the shofar portends war and destruction, such as the seven trumpets of Revelation will bring about, fulfilling the “wrath of God.”
In contrast, the brilliant sound of the silver trumpets is more associated with the joyous occasion of the entrance of royalty — Jesus Christ as King of kings — and His saints receiving everlasting life through a resurrection or change, at Christ’s return.
Sometime ago I asked a rabbi at a local Jewish synagogue if the Jews still blow silver trumpets [chatsotserah] during Yom Teruah, as God commands in Numbers 10:10. The rabbi said no, they don’t; they blow only the shofar. Here again, we see the Jews failing to carry out this detail in God’s commandments.
In this detail we can see why the majority of Jews will come to destruction and will miss out on the resurrection at Christ’s return. Only those who will eventually accept Jesus as their Messiah that will hear the joyous sound of the silver trumpets announcing the return of Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords, who will reward His saints with everlasting life, glory and honor in His kingdom.
This remnant of the Jews, who will finally believe in Jesus, will hear the sound of the silver trumpets (along with the shofar), will become resurrected or changed to immortality at His return, and will reign with Him in His glorious kingdom.
It is interesting that the Jews traditionally read either Psalm 30 or Psalm 130 — or both — during the Feast of Trumpets. Psalm 30 is a psalm of David where he talks about the LORD bringing his soul up from the grave (obviously in a resurrection, which the Feast of Trumpets also pictures). Psalm 130 shows the psalmist’s awareness of one day standing before God in judgment and hoping in God’s mercy. Other Jews read, from the Torah, stories of women wailing for their children, depicting the Day of Trumpets as a day of grief: Hagar for Ishmael, Sarah for her would-have-been-sacrificed Isaac, Rachel for her children.
As the Jews turn wholeheartedly to their Messiah, He will pour on them “the Spirit of grace and supplication” — when they “will look on Me [Jesus] whom they pierced” and “they will mourn for Him…and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn” (Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34-37; Revelation 1:7). The LORD Jesus will then fight their battles for them against their enemies (Zechariah 14:1-3). God will deliver those of them who will believe in the Messiah. They will have the “Spirit of Christ” in them, as did their prophets [see: Moses and Jesus — Are they Contraries?]. They will also be “in Christ” and will be among those resurrected or changed to immortality at Christ’s return, when the “last trumpet” will sound (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; 1 Corinthians 15:50-57).
The Jews who will believe in Jesus as their Messiah will then welcome Him as their King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:11-16). They will also become a part of the true “firstfruits” and “firstborn” of God’s kingdom, as pictured by the Day of Pentecost [see: Predestination]. Those Jews will have an important role in the re-education of the human survivors of Satan’s wrath (Revelation 12:12) and God’s wrath (Revelation 15:1, etc.) who will become the mortal subjects of God’s kingdom (Zechariah 8:20-23). [To be continued.]
Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.