God’s festivals all have great meaning in His plan of salvation for all mankind. What is the festival meaning of each of the biblical festivals?
God’s annual festivals and holy days represent His plan of salvation for mankind. Though given to ancient Israel (Leviticus 23), Jesus, the disciples and the New Testament Church continued to observe these days with Christian meaning.
Here is the festival meaning for each of these commanded assemblies and what each represents:
Passover, celebrated with the killing of a lamb in the Old Testament, pointed toward Christ giving His life for our sins (1 Peter 2:24). In observing the Passover with His disciples prior to His crucifixion, Jesus instituted New Testament symbols of bread and wine to represent His broken body and shed blood. He now represents the Passover lamb. As Paul told the Church at Corinth: “Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7).
The Days of Unleavened Bread last for seven days. Prior to the beginning of this festival, observers have removed leaven and leavened products (which represent sin) from their homes. By eating unleavened bread (and similar food items) during this time, Christians are reminded that we must strive to live a life free from sin, putting Christ and His perfect way of sincerity and truth into our lives, and putting sin out (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).
Pentecost, which is the 50th day counted beginning with the first day of the week (Sunday) during the Days of Unleavened Bread, represents the day upon which the New Testament Church—referred to as “firstfruits” (James 1:18; Revelation 14:4)—began with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). After understanding that Jesus died for our sins, we must repent of our sins in order to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:32). The festival meaning also reminds us that once baptized, we must allow God’s Spirit to lead us (Romans 8:8-9).
The Day of Atonement symbolizes the binding of Satan so humans will no longer be deceived by him and the demons (Revelation 20:1-3). This act prepares the world for what the next holy day represents.
The Feast of Tabernacles, which lasts for seven days, pictures the 1,000-year reign of Christ on earth. During this Millennium, the saints will serve as kings and priests assisting Christ in teaching humans God’s way of life (Revelation 5:10). During this time of peace, humans will be healed of diseases (Isaiah 35:5-6), and the earth will become abundantly productive (verses 1-2). This celebration will continue to be observed during the Millennium (Zechariah 14:16).
The Last Great Day represents another period of time after the Millennium in which all humans who have ever lived without full knowledge of God’s way of life will be resurrected to a physical life. The festival meaning includes the fact that these people will then be instructed in God’s way and given an opportunity to respond (Ezekiel 37:14; Matthew 12:41-42).
For more on God’s plan, see the articles in the section “Plan of Salvation: How God’s Festivals Reveal His Plan.”
You will also want to watch our video series “Feasts of the Lord.” This series of 10 short videos explores God’s plan and what it means for you.