“A Shadow of Things to Come”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Should we keep Israel’s feasts days and/or Sabbath days today in this the Dispensation of Grace? The Apostle Paul writes in Colossians 2:16,17 KJV: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” As members of the Church the Body of Christ, Paul says we are not under the Law of Moses because it was crucified with Christ on the cross (Colossians 2:14). We do not have to keep the Sabbath day or any of Israel’s feast days because we are not the nation Israel (Romans 6:14,15; Galatians 4:9-11)!

With that said, we want to focus on that phrase in Colossians 2:17: “which are a shadow of things to come.” How were the holydays, the new moons, and the Sabbath days of Israel’s religious calendar “a shadow of things to come?” I think you will find this study very interesting, as I did when I first learned of it: this takes some serious studying, and you may not understand it all the first time, so do not give up with this!

The LORD mandated that Israel observe seven feasts throughout the year, and this information was given to Moses in Leviticus chapter 23. In Leviticus 23:3, God commands Israel to keep the weekly Saturday Sabbath (there were additional “Sabbaths”). According to verse 5, the first feast of Israel’s religious calendar was the Feast of Passover, observed on the 14th day of Nisan (March/April on the Gregorian calendar). Nisan was the first month of Israel’s religious calendar, and during Passover, Israel’s households killed a young healthy male lamb, shed its blood, and then ate the lamb; see Exodus 12:3-14.

The day following Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread began—Leviticus 23:6-8 tell us that the Feast of Unleavened Bread lasted a week, from Nisan 15 and to Nisan 21. The first and last days of that week were special Sabbaths, during which Israel could do no servile work. During the week of Unleavened Bread, Israel removed all of the leaven from their houses and only eat unleavened bread; see also Exodus 12:15-20 and Exodus 13:6,7.

According to Leviticus 23:9-14, once Israel entered the Promised Land, they had to offer a sheaf (bundle) of the “firstfruits” of their first harvest (the “firstfruits” are the first ripened crops in the field). Israel was to observe Firstfruits on Nisan 16, the day after the Feast of Unleavened Bread began. After the sheaves were brought to the priesthood on the day of Firstfruits, Israel was to count 49 days (seven Sabbaths, or seven weeks). On the fiftieth day (Pentecost; “fifty”), the Feast of Pentecost was to be observed (Leviticus 23:15-21)—on that day, the Jews were to offer “a new meat offering unto the LORD” (verse 16). Pentecost was observed on the sixth day of Sivan (our May/June). The Feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, and Pentecost all occurred during the springtime.

For a period of four months following the Feast of Pentecost, no feast days were observed in Israel—there was a gap of time (more on this later). By now, it was autumn, and on the first day of the seventh month Tishri (our September/October), Israel celebrated the Feast of Trumpets (Leviticus 23:24,25)—this involved another special Sabbath day in which Israel could do no servile work. During this time, trumpets were blown: hence the name, “Feast of Trumpets.” In modern Judaism, this holiday is called “Rosh Hashanah.”

On the 10th day of the seventh month Tishri (our September/October), Leviticus 23:26-32 speaks of the Day of Atonement, during which atonement would be made for Israel’s national sins (see Hebrews 9:7, which describes Israel’s high priest annually sprinkling animal’s blood on the Mercy Seat). The Jews could not work on this day either because this was another special Sabbath day. Modern Judaism knows the Day of Atonement as “Yom Kippur.”

Finally, from the 15th to the 22nd of the seventh month Tishri (our September/October), Israel celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33-44). During this week, Jews were commanded to live in “booths” (tents, tabernacles) made of sticks. The first and last days of the week were both special Sabbaths, and Jews could not work on those two days either. Why were Jews to dwell in booths? Leviticus 23:43 says, “That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”

The LORD God commanded Israel to observe these feasts in this order, year after year, from Moses until this pure God-given religion was watered down to become the vain worship system that existed at the time of Jesus Christ (a period of roughly 1500 years). It was a very complex religious calendar, but little did the Jews know that that calendar was actually a preview of all of God’s future plans for the nation Israel. The feasts were types (previews) of specific events in God’s dealings with Israel. Let us “connect the dots,” and see just how God has intelligently designed His Word!

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PASSOVER“Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:” (1 Corinthians 5:7). In Exodus chapter 12, shortly before Israel was delivered from Egyptian bondage, God told the Jews to kill a spotless (healthy) male lamb and put its blood on their doors. That lamb’s blood being shed every Passover was a type (preview) of Jesus Christ being killed, just as Peter wrote “[ye have been redeemed] with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:19). The Feast of Passover was a type/preview of Christ’s death on Calvary!

UNLEAVENED BREAD — Leaven (yeast) in the Bible symbolized sin. The Feast of Unleavened Bread was a preview of Jesus Christ’s dead body being placed in the tomb, when He “put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26). Just as the Jews removed all the leaven from their homes, so Christ removed sin from our account! The Feast of Unleavened Bread was a preview/type of Christ’s burial, and Him burying (putting out of view) our sin!

FIRSTFRUITS“But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Corinthians 15:20). The Day of Firstfruits symbolized the fact that Christ is “the firstfruits” of those that have physically died. Christ was the first man to resurrect EVER; that is, the Firstfruits of Old Testament harvesting is a preview/type of the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

PENTECOST — In Acts 2:1, we see that “the day of Pentecost was fully come….” Those words “fully come” indicate that the Day of Pentecost observed in the Old Testament was prophesying Acts chapter 2, when God offered to restore divided Israel and make her one single nation (the two bread loaves in Leviticus 23:17 are the two houses of Israel; see Acts 2:36). In the early Acts period, Israel’s twelve apostles urged her to repent of killing her Messiah, and for them to accept their kingdom. The Old Testament day of Pentecost was a preview of Acts chapter 2!

(GAP — NO FEASTS OBSERVED DURING THIS FOUR-MONTH PERIOD)

TRUMPETS — According to Matthew 24:30,31, Jesus Christ’s Second Coming will involve angels “with a great sound of a trumpet.” The blowing of the trumpets in the Old Testament is a preview of Christ’s Second Coming when He re-gathers scattered/dispersed Israel!

ATONEMENT — In Acts 3:18,19, we learn that Jesus Christ will “blot out” Israel’s national sins at His Second Coming. Romans 11:26,27 is then brought to pass: “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.” The Day of Atonement (when the priest would pour animals’ blood on the Mercy Seat), like Trumpets, also previewed/typified Christ’s Second Coming!

TABERNACLES — When Israel’s kingdom is finally set up, and Christ is ruling in Jerusalem, God will then be dwelling with mankind on earth (“Immanuel” means “God with us;” see Matthew 1:23). In what does one dwell? A tabernacle, a tent! In Zechariah 14:16, we read: “And it shall come to pass that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King [Jesus Christ], the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.” The feat of Tabernacles is a preview/type of the Millennial Reign of Christ on earth!

THE GAP

Okay, so, let us discuss the gap between Pentecost and Trumpets. During that period of June to September, the Jews had no feast days to observe. According to the Apostle Paul, our Dispensation of Grace (which began after Pentecost, in Acts chapter 9), has interrupted Israel’s program. Jesus Christ’s Second Coming is still future as is Israel’s atonement, and Christ’s Millennial Reign on earth. The first four feasts represented Christ’s First Coming, meek and lowly to Israel, and the last three feasts are a prophetic view of Christ’s Second Coming when He returns to earth in great power and glory! Wow!

Now we see why the Bible says that the Old Testament prophets spoke of “the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow” (1 Peter 1:11).

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