Digging into the biblical festivals yields deeper understanding of what God wants for you and all humanity! They foreshadow His plan of salvation.
If you wandered into the hills around Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on any July 1, you might find yourself dropping to the ground or running the other way as thousands of Union and Confederate troops appeared around you.
The 145th anniversary reenactment of the battle of Gettysburg (held in 2008) involved 13,000 reenactors, 500 mounted cavalry and 100 cannons. This annual replay of the crucial American Civil War battle is one of the most famous of the many reenactments and living history events held around the world that bring the past to life.
In addition to acting out the past, many people also engage in drills and war games to practice for potential events. Acting these out also helps people get a head start on preparing for the future.
Reenactments and proactive drills can make important events and dry words on a page come to life.
The Bible also promotes this powerful educational technique.
Answers to questions we’ve all wondered about
In the Bible, God established an annual reenactment and preview of His plan of salvation. The seven steps of this plan remain a mystery to many people today, and even Christians who base their beliefs on the Bible have often missed the significance of these ancient biblical festivals.
When we understand the symbolism and celebrate these seven festivals, we uncover greater understanding of the unified, perfectly connected plan of God.
Not understanding the unifying pattern of God’s harvest plan makes understanding some of the most challenging questions more difficult. Questions like:
- Why is there so much suffering in the world?
- Why did Jesus have to die?
- Since He did give His life, how does He want us to respond?
- Where is God working today?
- How will He save this world from total destruction?
- What is the source of evil in the world, and how can it be neutralized?
- What is the way to real, lasting peace?
- What will happen to those billions of people who have never even heard of Jesus Christ and those who’ve never understood who He is and what He offers?
The other articles in this section begin to explore the encouraging and sometimes surprising answers.
The feasts in the Old Testament, New Testament and the future
The seven biblical festivals are all listed in Leviticus 23 and are celebrated during the harvest seasons in the Holy Land.
- Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread come at the start of the spring barley harvest.
- The Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost, is celebrated at the end of the grain harvests.
- The last four festivals fall in the autumn harvest season. These are known as the Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, Feast of Tabernacles and Eighth Day (which we usually call the Last Great Day).
Even though these harvest festivals were announced to the nation of Israel at the time of Moses, God calls them “feasts of the LORD” and “My feasts” (Leviticus 23:2).
Many are also surprised to learn that these biblical festivals are prophesied to be celebrated by all nations after Jesus Christ’s second coming to establish the Kingdom of God.Jesus Christ, His apostles and the early New Testament Church all celebrated these biblical festivals. You can find three quick examples by looking at John 7:37; Acts 2:1; and 1 Corinthians 5:7-8.
Many are also surprised to learn that these biblical festivals are prophesied to be celebrated by all nations after Jesus Christ’s second coming to establish the Kingdom of God. Consider what the prophet Zechariah recorded about the time after Jesus Christ returns to the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:9-11; Zechariah 14:4):
“And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles” (Zechariah 14:16).
The Feast of Tabernacles will be one of the major international annual festivals of the Kingdom of God, so doesn’t it seem strange that so few Christians today have looked into it and the other “feasts of the LORD”?
The harvest analogy
A major theme of the Bible is spiritual growth and bearing spiritual fruit. God uses the analogy of spiritual harvests as a description of His awesome plan of salvation. Let’s consider some examples that correspond with the harvest seasons.
The first produce to become ripe in the spring was called the firstfruits and was offered to God (Exodus 23:19). Spiritually, Jesus Christ was the perfect firstfruit and the first one to be resurrected to immortality:
“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20).
Next came the conclusion of the spring grain harvest at the Feast of Pentecost. Not only did the New Testament Church begin on Pentecost, but Jesus Christ talked about the Church age in terms of a harvest:
“Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest’” (Matthew 9:37-38).
The apostle Paul explained that in God’s plan, we each have an order:
“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Corinthians 15:22-23).
As we will see, this same pattern carries on to the large harvest represented by the four biblical festivals in the fall. They demonstrate God’s love and desire to bring all people to repentance and salvation as His children forever (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).
The final spiritual harvest is described by the apostle John:
“And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books” (Revelation 20:12).
Not only will the books of the Bible be opened to their understanding, but the Book of Life will also be opened, representing the opportunity for salvation.
Another passage that describes the same second resurrection says God will put His Spirit in them (Ezekiel 37:14).
Shocking as it may seem, God’s plan leaves no one behind and shortchanges no one—all will have a full chance for salvation. God “desires all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4), and that’s what His plan, reenacted and previewed through His biblical festivals, is all about!
For more on God’s plan, see the articles in the section “Plan of Salvation: How God’s Festivals Reveal His Plan.”