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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, August 26 2021

God's Harvest Feasts: His assurance of hope for mankind

God's seven biblical festivals are centred around the three major harvest seasons of the Holy Land: the barley harvest, the later spring wheat harvest, and the greater late summer and fall harvest. The meaning of these festivals reveals how God is carrying out His plan for the salvation of humanity.

God's Harvest Feasts: His assurance of hope for mankind
The festivals of the Bible are timed around the harvest seasons of the Holy Land—spring, late summer and autumn.
by Jerold Aust

These three major harvest seasons are mentioned in Deuteronomy 16: "Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles..." These three festivals symbolically portray humanity's salvation in successive stages, with each stage involving greater numbers.

The first harvest season, the barley harvest, is the smallest and most significant. It is usually referred to as the Passover season and includes the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. During the Passover/Unleavened Bread season the wave-sheaf offering (Leviticus 23:10-14) takes place, representing only one man—Jesus Christ. Christ fulfilled the symbolism of the wave-sheaf offering, when He was accepted by God after His resurrection. This took place on the very day the wave-sheaf offering was waved before God before the barley harvest began.

Just as the first of the annual harvest seasons began with the wave-sheaf offering, the first harvest of humankind into God's Kingdom began with Jesus Christ. Humanity's salvation is absolutely dependent on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (John 12:23-25).

The second harvest festival is the Feast of Pentecost, observed 50 days after the wave-sheaf offering (Leviticus 23:15-17). This festival is called the Feast of Harvest, Feast of Weeks or simply Firstfruits (Exodus 23:16; Deuteronomy 16:10; Numbers 28:26). It represents the harvesting of the firstfruits in God's plan for humanity, which includes the Old Testament saints and those throughout history who were part of the New Testament Church.

The spiritual fulfillment of this Feast of Firstfruits began when God sent His Spirit to the original members of His Church—which, significantly, happened on the very day of the Feast of Firstfruits or Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). This harvest of the human firstfruits continues until the return of Jesus Christ, when they are resurrected to eternal life as immortal spirit beings (1 Corinthians 15:50-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).

God's final harvest festival, the Feast of Ingathering (Exodus 23:16), offers the greatest hope to an otherwise hopeless humanity. This harvest season includes four different festivals. They are the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day.

The Feast of Trumpets is the first of the four festivals of this season (Leviticus 23:24), depicting Jesus Christ's return to earth to save humankind (Revelation 11:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:16) and set up a world-ruling kingdom: "And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever" (Daniel 2:44).

The second festival of this season is the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27-32) symbolising the removal of Satan and the demons and their evil influence on humanity (Revelation 20:1-3).

The third festival is the Feast of Tabernacles, representing Christ’s millennial rule on earth, along with the resurrected saints (Revelation 20:4-6). Just as the Feast of Tabernacles was a time of joy and plenty in ancient Israel, the millennial rule of Jesus Christ will be a time of joy and plenty for all humanity. As people learn to live according to God's laws, peace and the knowledge of God will spread throughout all the earth (Isaiah 11:9). With Satan gone, even wild animals will have a peaceful temperament (Isaiah 11:6-8).

This 1,000-year period will be preparatory to the events signified by the final annual festival. Revelation 20:11-13 refers to the White Throne Judgment, a separate Holy Day immediately following the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:36, 39). This festival represents the time when all the many billions who never had their opportunity for salvation will finally receive it.

Revelation 20:6 refers to the resurrection of God's faithful servants to immortality at the return of Jesus Christ as the "first resurrection." A parenthetical inset in verse 5 explains that "the rest of the dead" are resurrected at the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ and the saints. This "second" resurrection is different in that it is a resurrection to temporary physical life described in Ezekiel 37:1-14. These people will then have an opportunity to repent, receive God's Spirit and ultimately His gift of salvation.

God shows us through the symbolism of His annual Holy Days that one day this earth will become a worldwide Garden of Eden and all those who have ever lived will be given the opportunity for salvation.

With time, he also came to understand the days observed by most of Christianity are not commanded in the Bible, and Scripture backed up his realisation that associating the name of Jesus with these days did not make them more acceptable: "... in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:9).

While in high school, he also discovered that in the King James Version of the Bible the word translated as "Easter" in Acts 12:4 was an erroneous translation of the Greek word ‘pascha’, a word clearly meaning the Passover (described in Leviticus 23:5). It was not until the second century, long after the New Testament was written, that people began to replace the Passover observance with Easter.

Jesus and His family observed the Holy Days of the Bible, travelling to Jerusalem, when He was twelve years old, to observe the Passover (Luke 2:41, 42). John 7 also shows Christ keeping the Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day (described in Leviticus 23:33-36) in spite of the threat of bodily harm. Jesus kept all of the annual festivals, not only because He was a devout Jew, but because God commanded them and He was setting an example for Christians today (Matthew 28:20).

These Holy Days were also observed following Christ's ascension. The disciples were gathered together to observe the feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was sent (Acts 2:1), because Pentecost was still a "holy convocation," a commanded assembly (Leviticus 23: 15- 16, 21).

Gentile Christians also observed the biblical Holy Days. More than 20 years after Christ’s crucifixion, about the year A.D. 55, the Apostle Paul gave important instruction to the Church in the gentile city of Corinth, where most church members were gentile. A man was involved in an immoral relationship, and Paul instructed them to expel him from the church:"...Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump...For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with ...the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).

The Corinthians had put out leaven to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, but had not applied the spiritual lesson. Paul’s intent, by instructing them to "keep the feast," was not to spiritualize away the Days of Unleavened Bread, but to magnify them. The New Testament builds on the foundation of the Old by emphasizing the spiritual intent of the Holy Days.

Colossians 2:16, 17 is perhaps the most oft-quoted New Testament Scripture used to discredit the Holy Days: "So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ."

Paul was not saying not to keep the Holy Days, he was addressing their proper observance. The Colossians had been introducing ascetic practices on the Holy Days, as they were being influenced to follow the commandments and doctrines of men (verses 18-23). If anything, these verses corroborate the practice of God's true Church in the first century was to observe these days,

Another misunderstood text is Galatians 4:8-10. Verses 8 and 9 refer to the practices of the Galatians before they knew the true God, and after learning the truth, they were beginning to return to these ‘weak and beggarly elements’. To say God's laws are weak and beggarly is blasphemous. These "days and months and seasons [times] and years" were pagan practices, possibly similar to astrology today.

When a person looks into the commands and examples in the Bible to determine which religious festivals to observe, there is only one choice to be found: the annual festivals and Holy Days of God. If we are to build on the foundation of the apostles and prophets and follow the example of Jesus Christ, we will faithfully observe these days, and come to learn more about God's plan of salvation for humanity.