Summary: A look at the prophetic, spiritual meaning behind the three major Feasts of the Mosaic Covenant.
In Colossians 2:16-17, we have the Apostle Paul telling the brethren that they were to no longer allow some people to tell them that they must - to be good Christians - observe the various ordinances and statutes of the old Mosaic Law.
Paul explains that the various parts of the Mosaic Law have already fulfilled their purpose. What was that purpose? He says that they were a mere shadow of things to come. A shadow of Whom or what? A shadow of Christ and the religion that Christ would establish. When you see someone’s shadow, you get a rough idea of some of the features of that person. It is a crude picture of that person. Paul is saying that some elements of the old Mosaic Law provided a shadowing image of the coming Christ - His Person, His Work and His Religion.
In verse 16, Paul mentions that the old Festivals or Feasts served as a shadow of things to come with Christ. I thought that, today, it may be interesting to see how those Feasts actually were shadows of things that came with Christ.
The Israelites were required to observe three major Feasts during their calander year. We read of those Feasts in Deuteronomy 16:16, "Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread and at the Feast of Weeks and at the Feast of Booths, and they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed.”
We note from this verse that the three major Feasts were:
Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Feast of Weeks.
Feast of Booths or Tabernacles.
1. FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD.
First of the three great festivals was the Feast of Unleavened Bread. We find it detailed in Leviticus 23:5-6, “In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight is the Lord’s Passover. Then on the fifteenth day of the same month there is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.”
The Feast of Unleavened Bread began the day after the observance of the Passover. The Passover brought to remembrance that the blood of a lamb secured the Israelites’ salvation from death in Egypt. The Feast of Unleavened Bread originally meant to call to the memory of the Israelites how that their exodus from Egypt was done in such a haste that they did not have time to prepare leavened dough to use for their initial journey.
Of what did the Feast of Unleavened Bread shadow? Paul tells us, in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, that the Feast shadowed the purity of the Christian life - “Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
As the Passover shadowed the deliverance from spiritual death by the spilled blood of the sacrificed Lamb of God - Christ. The Feast of Unleavened Bread shadowed the Christian’s partaking of a life of sincerity and truth rather than partaking of a life of malice and wickedness.
Just as the Israelites had to purge or cleanse their houses of any leavening agent, so we are commanded to purge or cleanse our lives of sin and rebellion.
2. FEAST OF WEEKS.
The second major feast observed by the Israelites was called the Feast of Weeks. The basis for the name of the Feast is found in Levitucus 23:15-16, where Moses said that the Feast was to begin seven complete Sabbaths or weeks after the start of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Or, in other words, they could count 50 days after the Passover. We, today, know the Feast of Weeks by its Greek name - Pentecost. Pentecost is derived from the Greek word for fifty.
The Feast of Weeks or Pentecost was instituted in commemoration of the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai - from the day that Israel went out from Egypt to the day that they received the Law were fifty days.
The Feast of Weeks had the additional name, according to Exodus 23:16; 34:22, Feast of Harvest of the First Fruits. "Also you shall observe the Feast of the Harvest of the first fruits of your labors from what you sow in the field…And you shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks, that is, the first fruits of the wheat harvest.” Thus, the Feast also celebrated the beginning of the wheat harvest in Israel.
What Christ-related or Christian realities did this Feast shadow?
We know that one of the most important days in Christianity fell on the first day of the Feast of Pentecost after the crucixion of Christ Jesus as related to us in Acts Chapter Two. The Christian religion and the Church began on this Day.