The Feastdays of the Torah are divided into three groups—the spring feasts, Shavuot (Pentecost), and then the fall feasts—each of which is linked to a distinct stage of the Exodus and Israel’s instruction at Sinai. In addition, there are at least three minor feasts (that is, those which were not ordained at Sinai) which are also prophetically significant. The key to understanding the Feasts’ prophetic significance is to understand their historical significance.
When YHVH reorganized Israel’s calendar by proclaiming the month of the Pesach (Passover) to be the “beginning of months” (Exo. 12:2), He was establishing that His plan of salvation begins with the Passover. However, to truly understand God’s plan, we begin our brief study not with the Passover, but with the six “silent” months which separate the Passover from the previous Sinai-ordained Feastday, Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles. Within this “silent period” lie two minor Feasts: Hanukkah, which celebrates the victory of Israel over the forces of Antiochus Epiphanes, and Purim, which celebrates her victory over the forces of Haman some three centuries earlier as is described in the book of Esther. Hanukkah has an eschatological significance which will be explored in another article, but for now it is enough to note the element these two feasts share in common: Both celebrate YHVH’s “hidden” protection of and provision for His people. Though He did not act with any obvious miracles like fire from the sky or supernatural plagues, nevertheless He brought His people to victory against overwhelming odds: In Purim by the placement of a Jewish queen, and in Hanukkah by giving the Jews might in battle.
These “silent” months between Sukkot and Pesach correspond to the 430 “silent years” which lead up both to the Passover of the Exodus (Gal. 3:17) and the Passover of the Messiah. Both periods were characterized by the lack of a true prophet to lead the people, “a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of YHVH" (Amos 8:11). God had not forgotten His people, but it probably felt to them like He had.
When YHVH fulfilled His promise to redeem His people from bondage, it was through the Passover and the death of a Lamb. God’s people were set free from Egypt via the blood of the lamb painted on their doorposts, so that they would not die in God’s wrath. Likewise, God’s people were set free from sin by the blood of the Lamb painted on their hearts, so that they would not die in God’s wrath. The seven days of the Feast of Matzah, in which all the leaven had to be removed from Israel’s houses and no leaven could be eaten, represents the quick removal of Israel from Egypt (in which there was no time to make leavened bread) and the complete removal of all sin in our lives by the sacrifice of Yeshua as we flee the ways of the world.
In the third month after Israel’s departure from Egypt, they arrived at Mt. Sinai (Ex. 19:1). There God descended on the mountain in fire, with the sound of a shofar (vv. 16ff), and called Moses up the mountain to begin giving him the Torah. According to Jewish tradition, the day that this happened was the day of Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, a date consistent with the Biblical record. Like HaBikkurim, the Feast of Firstfruits for the barley harvest, on which Messiah was raised as the Firstfruits of the dead, Shavuot is a firstfruits festival for the wheat harvest. On the first Shavuot, the firstfruits of the nation of Israel began receiving the Torah. On Shavuot after the death and resurrection of the Messiah, the firstfruits of the Church began receiving the Torah written on their hearts by the giving of the Spirit of God in the form of fire and with a great sound (Jer. 31:33, Ezk. 36:26-27, Acts 2:3ff).
After giving Moses the first commandments, the Lord called him back up the mountain to receive further instruction, and Moses remained with Him for forty days (Exo. 24:18). It was during this period that Aaron led the people in the sin of making and worshiping the golden calf. When Moses descended again from the mountain and saw this, he smashed the stone tablets on which God had written His commandments, signifying that Israel had broken the covenant they had made to follow all of God’s commands, and many in Israel died, both at the hands of the Levites whom Moses commanded to take arms against their kinsmen, and by a plague sent by God. Moreover, Moses removed the Tent of Meeting (not the Tabernacle, which had not yet been built, but a different tent in which Moses lived and met with YHVH; Exo. 33:7ff) to outside the camp, signifying that the people’s sin was great enough that God had removed the visible place which was the focal point of Israel’s worship and His Presence.
The parallel is not difficult to understand: Forty years after Yeshua ascended into Heaven, Israel still had not repented as a body from her “golden calf.” Just as Israel in the Exodus fell into the sin of worshipping God in the manner of their tradition (in this case, image-based worship), which they learned while in Egypt, instead of worshipping God in the manner in which He had commanded them, Israel in the first century fell into the sin of worshipping God in the manner of their traditions rather than doing so through the Messiah as He had commanded them. While the details differed, the essential core of the sin was the same.
So was the punishment. As Israel in the Exodus was punished by the sword and plague, so Israel in 70 AD was punished by the sword and plague. And as Israel in the Exodus had the Tent of Meeting removed by their prophet, Moses, so Israel in the first century had the Temple removed by the prophet after Moses, Yeshua HaMashiach. The destruction of both Temples took place on Tishbi b’Av, or the 9th of the month of Av. While it cannot be proven, the timing of the Golden Calf incident makes it quite possible that Tishbi b’Av is the day on which Moses removed the Tent of Meeting as well.
In the Exodus sin, God’s fury was so great that He said to Moses, “Now therefore let Me alone, that My wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation” (Exo. 32:10). YHVH-Tzva’ot, the LORD of Hosts, was actually planning to destroy the whole nation and start over with Moses and his children! This is, in fact, what Replacement Theology claims that God did to Israel in the first century: destroyed them, and replaced them with the Messiah’s “children,” the Church.
Those who believe that God has cast away His chosen nation need to take another look at Exodus. Moses, who had not joined in the sin of the people, interceded for Israel so that God would not utterly destroy them, though He did punish them, even (temporarily) taking away their place of worship. Are we to think that Yeshua did any less, or that His intercession for Israel would be any less heard? And notice the basis on which Moses interceded for Israel: Not on the basis of their obedience or repentance, but on the basis of YHVH’s Name—that is, His reputation—and His promises (ibid., vv. 12-13). It is on this same basis that YHVH has already begun returning Israel to her land: “Thus saith the Lord YHVH; ‘I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for Mine holy Name's sake . . .’” (Ezk. 36:22).
The Future Fulfillment
“Okay,” the amillennialist answers, “clearly not all of the Jews were destroyed, but the Temple was, and since we are now the Temple of God, there will be no other.” Again, keep reading. After seeing to the punishment of Israel and removing the Tent of Meeting, Moses was told by God, “And I will send an angel before thee . . . for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way” (Exo. 33:2, 3). But Moses, not content that a lesser angel go with Israel, returned up the mountain, and interceded with God for another forty days, going without food or water, until YHVH relented and agreed to send His Presence with Israel. The form in which His Presence went with Israel was in the pillar of fire and cloud which was intimately connected with the Tabernacle:
The Tabernacle of Israel was known by several names. . . The name dwelling from Heb. mishkan, from shakan, to “like down,” a “dwelling,” connected itself with the Jewish, though not scriptural, word Shekinah, as describing the dwelling place of the divine glory. (Unger, F., The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, R.K. Harrison, ed. [Moody, 1988] “Tabernacle of Israel,” p. 1238)According to the Talmud, the day on which Moses returned with the second set of stone tablets, showing that YHVH had forgiven Israel and restored fellowship with them, was the day of Yom Kippur (Tractate Taanit 30b), and the forty days that he fasted before God correspond with the forty days of T’shuva (Repentence) that are traditionally observed leading up to the Day of Atonement. (This forty-day period of fasting may be the same forty-day period that Yeshua spent fasting and being tested in the wilderness after His baptism.)
Likewise, the day on which Yeshua will return to restore His fellowship with Israel, and direct them in building a Temple greater than that which they built on their own, just as Moses directed Israel in building a Tabernacle greater than the former Tent of Meeting which was taken away from the camp, will be on Yom Kippur. Like the Levitial High Priest emerging from the Holy of Holies to show that God had accepted the sacrifice of the goat on the people’s behalf, Yeshua will emerge from the Holy of Holies in Heaven to show Israel that God has accepted His sacrifice on their behalf.
Yom Kippur is not yet complete. Our High Priest is hidden from our eyes, beyond the veil, making intercession for us day and night, but He has not yet emerged to show all Israel that His blood-stained garments have been turned as white as snow, proving that the Father has accepted the High Priest’s sacrifice on behalf of all Israel, not just the remnant that now believe. When He does, carrying the sign of a covenant restored before Israel even as Moses did, then the Temple promised by Ezekiel will be built, just as the Tabernacle was.
When will the High Priest come forth? On the last day of Daniel’s Seventieth Week when Israel and Jerusalem will “make reconciliation for iniquity” (Dan. 9:24). The word for reconciliation, kaphar, is most often translated “atonement.”
With Israel’s sins atoned for, the way will be made for the final stage of the Messiah’s reconciliation of all things to Himself. Next we will study Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, when Yeshua will be officially crowned King over all the nations . . . on His birthday.