God's Festivals/Appointed Times, in a nutshell
Our Creator, YHWH (Yahweh) commanded Believers to keep and celebrate seven yearly Festivals/Appointed Times. These include Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Weeks, Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles (Leviticus 23). Man has added some "traditional" celebrations such as Hanukkah which is preserved in the books of 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees; and Purim from the book of Esther, and more. Some of the more modern historical holidays include Israeli Independence Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day.
As believers in YHWH and His Son, Yeshua, everyone must observe the seven feasts/festivals/Appointed Times. Contrary to popular belief, they weren't just meant for "the Jews" (see Numbers 15:13-16) because there were no "Jews" until after Jacob had a son named Yehudah/Judah, who was the father of the Tribe of Judah from which the term "Jew" is derived (today, "Jews" has become a blanket term for all Israel). Yet, up until then, every believer was Torah observant, keeping the Seventh Day Sabbath and the Feasts, eating only "clean" foods, etc.
Yes, it's true - think about it: Adam and Eve weren't "Jews"; and neither were Cain and Abel or our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob! Yet, they were ALL "Torah observant" - meaning, they obeyed God as He continued to coach and teach His people throughout the millennia.
An interesting fact to remember is that Yeshua (whom Christians call Jesus) has so far only fulfilled the first 4 of the 7; and it seems the next one will be what Christians refer to as "the rapture" ... on a future Yom Teruah/Feast of Trumpets, when God calls His people together.
Leviticus 23 outlines these seven festivals and shows how YHWH wants us to celebrate them. The first four occur in the Springtime and the last three in the Fall, with a harvest time noted in between. As you will see, YHWH commanded a specific and fixed day for the commemoration of each festival. (These days will be found at varying times on our Gregorian calendar because man's timetable/calendar is different from God's.) Each of YHWH's Feasts foreshadows not only Yeshua, but also the sequence of events in His "grand Plan":
||Redemption/Sacrifice/Death of Messiah
|2. Unleavened Bread
||Sanctification/Burial of Messiah/No decay
|3. Firstfruits/Grain Harvest
||Resurrection/Resurrection of Messiah
||Pentecost/Holy Spirit sent by YHWH
|5. Yom Teruah (Trumpets)/Rosh Hashana
||Believers' New Year/Messiah returns to Israel ("Rapture")
|6. Day of Atonement/Yom Kippur
||Day of Atonement/Messiah saves Israel
||Wedding Feast/Golden Age/Messiah starts Millennium
An indepth study
Passover/Pesach: Passover (Nisan 14) falls in the March/April timeframe on the Gregorian calendar: Leviticus 23:5 tells us: "'In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, between sundown and complete darkness, comes Pesach for ADONAI."
This Feast celebrates the deliverance of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt. It is a tale of redemption through the killing of the Passover Lamb whose blood was to be applied to the doorposts of their houses - an act which would spare their firstborn from the Tenth Curse against Pharoah. YHWH promised that the Angel of Death would "pass over" those houses with the blood on the doorposts, and spare the first born (Exodus 12:1-13). This foreshadowed Yeshua, YHWH's "Passover Lamb" who fulfilled Passover when he was crucified and willingly allowed His own blood to be shed on our behalf in order to become our redemption. In other words, the innocent died for the guilty; and sacrifice not only means death but also life (Isaiah 53.)
Yeshua took our bitterness so that we might be able to live an abundant life. During the celebration of Passover, we remember and identify with the bitterness of slavery by eating bitter herbs and matzah (unleavened bread).
How do you celebrate Passover? Before Passover (Nisan 14) begins, we must clean all items containing leaven out of our houses, because leaven represents "sin". Don't cheat and put your leavened items in the garage or barn; the purpose of this exercise is to OBEY the command to get "the sin" out of our lives! If you put your leavened items in the garage you are, in essence, hanging onto your sin....
The Feast of Passover (Nisan 14) encompasses a total of 8 days, including the Feast of Unleavened Bread (which is an actual Shabbat/Holy Day), which starts at sunset on Nisan 14 (it is the second day of Passover). On the first day of Passover, Nisan 14, we prepare food to eat that evening (which kicks off the Feast of Unleavened Bread). Note that Yeshua, the Passover Lamb who was without sin, died around 3 pm on 14 Nisan. He to be down off the cross before sunset - because of the Shabbat/Holy Day of Unleavened Bread which was to start at sunset....Nisan 15 and the Seventh Day of the Passover are holy days, so we get two Shabbats during Passover.
Exodus 12:1-13 tells us about the first Passover in which the Israelites in Egypt were told to bring a lamb into their houses on the 10th day and raise it until the 14th day upon which they had to slaughter and eat it - around sunset on the 14th (when it becomes the 15th). Yeshua ultimately was THE PASSOVER LAMB! Halleluyah! This does not mean He abolished the need to celebrate Passover; it simply meant He fulfilled one of the Feasts that YHWH's people are to celebrate each year.
PLEASE NOTE the next two feasts below fall during the Festival of Passover!
Unleavened Bread/Hag HaMatzot which is a SHABBAT/holy day, is celebrated on Nisan 15 and marks the beginning of a seven day period during which the eating of leavened Bread is forbidden as leaven is a symbol of sin (I Cor. 5:6-8). Messiah Yeshua fulfilled this Feast when he was buried and became our righteousness (Rom. 6:4, II Cor. 5:21).
Exodus 23:14-16: "Three times a year, you are to observe a festival for me. Keep the festival of matzah: for seven days, as I ordered you, you are to eat matzah (unleavened bread) at the time determined in the month of Aviv; for it was in that month that you left Egypt. No one is to appear before me empty-handed. Next, the festival of harvest, the firstfruits of your efforts sowing in the field; and last, the festival of ingathering, at the end of the year, when you gather in from the fields the results of your efforts."
On 15 Nisan at sunset (which, all day long was the Holy Shabbat of Unleavened Bread) you start counting the omer. (This is sunset from 15 to 16 Nisan that is when you say: "This is the first day of omer...")
Firstfruits/Yom HaBikkurim: Celebrated on Nisan 16, Firstfruits falls during the March/April timeframe. This Feast celebrates the bringing of the firstfruits of the winter harvest to the Temple. This Feast was fulfilled ("fulfilled" does NOT mean abolished!) when Yeshua rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:-20-23). Please note, the first three Feasts were fulfilled through the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Yeshua haMashiyach!
Weeks/Shavuot is a Shabbat/Holy Day: The Feast of Weeks/Shavuot is celebrated during the May/June timeframe. Exodus 34:22 tells us: "Observe the festival of Shavuot with the first-gathered produce of the wheat harvest, and the festival of ingathering at the turn of the year...."
Counting of the Omer towards Shavuot: (Exodus 34:22.) Torah directs the seven-week Counting of the Omer (which begins on the second day of Passover and culminates after seven weeks (49 days), the next day (50th day) being Shavuot). The counting of the days and weeks convey the anticipation of and desire for the Giving of the Torah. In other words, at Passover, the Israelites were freed from their lives of slavery in Egypt; and 50 days later on Shavuot they accepted YHWH's Torah which made them a nation committed to serving God. This Feast was fulfilled by the coming of the promised Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) on the disciples of Yeshua in the Temple. It represents the beginning of the body of Messiah on Earth, in which ALL believers, redeemed through the blood of Messiah, are lifted up before ADONAI and set apart as holy (Acts 2, John 14:15-18, Ephesians 2:11-22).
The theme of accepting Torah is mirrored by the Book of Ruth, which is to be read on Shavuot. Ruth (King David's great-grandmother and ancestor of Yeshua) is born a Moabite, and becomes the first known convert to Judaism. When her husband dies, she tells her Mother-in-Law Naomi that she will go with her, and accept her people. Ruth says the words, "Your people are my people, and your God is my God." During Shavuot we read Exodus 19:1 thru 20:23; Numbers 28:26-31; Ezekiel 1:1-28, 3:12.
Shavua is week in Hebrew, and Shavu'ot is plural, meaning weeks. YHWH's people have been counting exactly seven weeks from Passover; 50 days. It is also worth noting that the number 50 is the number for the Holy Spirit. Yeshua said He would send the Holy Spirit, and He did it on the 50th day after His resurrection. During this time we generally eat dairy products and favorite dishes are cheesecakes and cheese pancakes. In Israel, Shavuot is a state holiday, and a time for pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
Yom Teruah (Trumpets)/Rosh Hashana (A Shabbat/Holy Day): This Feast on Tishri 1, falls in the September/October timeframe. Leviticus 23:23-25 says: ADONAI said to Moshe, "Tell the people of Isra'el, 'In the seventh month, the first of the month is to be for you a day of complete rest for remembering, a holy convocation announced with blasts on the shofar. Do not do any kind of ordinary work, and bring an offering made by fire to ADONAI.'"
It is the Jewish Civil New Year; the creation of the world, according to tradition; the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve and their first actions toward the realization of man's role in the world; of the first sin that was committed and resulting repentance; a day when YHWH takes stock of all of His Creation, which includes all of humanity. It's a rehearsal for the day when the bridegroom will come to claim us, his bride, who are betrothed to Him.
Rosh Hashanah is celebrated not with fireworks and champagne but with family meals and introspection. During this Festival, the blowing of shofars (rams' horns) signifies the bringing together of God's people, warning them to repent during the coming "days of awe" (the 10 days between Trumpets and the Day of Atonement).
According to tradition, during this time YHWH's people are to concentrate all their efforts into making amends with their brethren and apologizing for past offenses. However, what most traditional Jews do not yet realize is that this Feast is the next one to be fulfilled by Yeshua, because when the trumpets will sound and the true believers in Messiah Yeshua will be gathered/resurrected (I Thess. 4:13-18, I Cor. 15:50-54).
This Feast also signals the call for repentance, for the time is short and Judgment is coming upon the Earth - whether people are read, or not! (See the Book of Revelation.)
Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement - "Yom Kippur" is the "Day of Atonement." It is a Shabbat/High Holy Day on which we fast, repent and bare our souls to YHWH, asking Him to forgive us anything we may have done throughout the year that was not pleasing to Him: This solemn day represents the need for the sacrifice/sin offering that must be made for the sins of the nation.
Yeshua, of course, WAS that "Sacrifice" (actually, "Offering" is a better word, because no one "sacrificed" him; he martyred himself), and he will be recognized for it at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb which may (judging by how close together the Fall Festivals are) take place immediately after Rosh Hashana/the "catching-up of YHWH's people" just BEFORE we all return with Him to fulfill the Feast of Tabernacles, wherein Yeshua will "tabernacle" among us for the next thousand years!
Celebrated on Tishri 10, this mo'ed falls in the September/October time frame. Leviticus 16:29 tells us: "It is to be a permanent regulation for you that on the tenth day of the seventh month you are to deny yourselves and not to do any kind of work, both the citizen and the foreigner living with you. For on this day, atonement will be made for you to purify you; you will be clean before ADONAI from all your sins. It is a Shabbat of complete rest for you, and you are to deny yourselves. This is a permanent regulation."
This Festival represents the need for the sacrifice/sin offering that must be made for the sins of the nation. As the Bible tells us, Messiah shall descend to put to an end the sins of Israel. (Remember, "Israel" includes ALL who believe in and follow the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!)
At that time the Jews will mourn for the "One who was pierced" and FINALLY recognize that Yeshua was the Messiah, all along! This day will be fulfilled upon the Second Coming of Messiah to the Earth (Matt. 23:37-39, Hos. 5:15 thru 6:1-3, Zech. 13:8,9 Zech. 12:10, Zech. 13:1, Ezek. 16:61-63).
This mo'ed signals the call for repentance, for the time is short and Judgment is coming upon the Earth - whether people are ready, or not! (See the Books of Daniel and Revelation.)
Sukkot/Tabernacles (Shabbats are on the 1st and 8th day): A week-long holiday that reminds of us the hardships of Israel's 40 years in the wilderness and provides us with insight into the correct birth date of our awesome Messiah.
Sukkot, as seen in Leviticus 23: 33-37, is celebrated five days after Yom Kippur. It is a week-long holiday that reminds of us the hardships of Israel's 40 years in the wilderness and provides us with insight into the correct birth date of our awesome Messiah. Yeshua, our Savior was born during the Feast of Sukkot (not on the 25th of December, which is a Christian myth!) and circumcised on the eighth day. Because there was no room at the inn because of the census (Luke 2:7), Miriam and Yosef (Mary and Josef) ended up in a "sukkah" - a temporary dwelling. Bethlehem is only about 5 miles from Jerusalem and so Y'shua was born there because was no room at the inn. The name Bethlehem means "House Of Bread". And as we all know, Y'shua is the Bread of Life" (see John 6:43-51).
Celebrated on Tishri 15, this Feast falls in the September/October timeframe. It is outlined in Deuteronomy 16:13 - 15, where YHWH tells the Israelites: "You are to keep the festival of Sukkot for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing-floor and winepress. Rejoice at your festival - you, your sons and daughters, your male and female slaves, the L'vi'im (Levites), and the foreigners, orphans and widows living among you. Seven days you are to keep the festival for ADONAI your God in the place ADONAI your God will choose, because ADONAI your God will bless you in all your crops and in all your work, so you are to be full of joy!
Leviticus 23:39-43: "'But on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered the produce of the land, you are to observe the festival of ADONAI seven days; the first day is to be a complete rest and the eighth day is to be a complete rest. On the first day you are to take choice fruit, palm fronds, thick branches and river-willows, and celebrate it in the presence of ADONAI your God for seven days. You are to observe it as a feast to ADONAI seven days in the year; it is a permanent regulation, generation after generation; keep it in the seventh month. You are to live in sukkot for seven days; every citizen of Isra'el is to live in a sukkah, so that generation after generation of you will know that I made the people of Isra'el live in sukkot when I brought them out of the land of Egypt; I am ADONAI your God.'"
Did you notice that all Israel is to live in a sukkah for seven days? While some rabbis believe that only those who physically live in Israel need to live in temporary dwellings, the fact is, all are commanded to keep this Feast, and so the least we can do (unless the family is into camping and wants to live in a sukkah for the whole seven days) is build a sukkah in our back yards and eat a meal there at least once during this festival.
Sukkot serves as a reminder of the days in the wilderness when YHWH's people were forced to reside in tents/huts or temporary dwellings - a reminder of our temporary lives on Earth. It will be fulfilled by the ingathering of the "Final Harvest" of souls just prior to the setting up of the kingdom of the Messiah on Earth.
Philipppians 2:10-11 tells us in that day Yeshua will reign from Jerusalem and "every knee will bow in heaven, on earth and under the earth” – and “every tongue will acknowledge” him. His Kingdom is to last 1,000 years before the eternal order begins in the "new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21)!