Could the Holy Days of Israel reveal what will happen next in prophecy?
Highly significant events have happened in the past on the holy days that God gave to ancient Israel. Momentous events, spanning centuries. Today as we see world events racing to a climax, could the holy days of Israel reveal what will happen next in prophecy? Could they give us a rough time line as to when and in what order these events will occur?
Let’s take a closer look, not to set dates or make fanciful predictions, but to realize how often God has used His holy days in the past to mark momentous events and to gain more understanding as to how God may use them to do the same in these end times.
THE HOLY DAYS GOD GAVE TO ISRAEL
Right after God rescued the Israelite slaves from the land of Egypt some 3,500 years ago, He gave them days of commemoration, celebration, feasting, and fasting that they were to observe annually at set times during the year. Some of their names and observances are familiar to we who are not Jews, such as Passover and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), but most are not.
The days and festivals themselves are listed in the Old Testament book of Leviticus in chapter 23. It begins like this:
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. (Lev. 23:1-2, KJV)
First we see that these are “feasts of the Lord” and shall be “holy convocations.” The list begins with the one holy time that all of us are familiar with, the weekly Sabbath.
Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation: ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings. (Lev. 23:3)
The weekly Sabbath is of immense importance and is a beautiful gift to us from a loving God. However, for purposes of this article, it will be bypassed except to note the instructions for a holy convocation and that we shouldn’t be pursuing our daily work during that time.
Next is a description of the annual holy days and observances, which are divided into spring and fall seasons. Rather than quote extensively from scripture (though I recommend everyone read the passages for themselves), I will summarize them here. The names will seem strange to ears who are used to associating days like Christmas and Easter for special observance, but bear with me, as the names themselves are important and serve as a shorthand reminder of each day’s meaning.
--------------SPRING HOLY DAYS AND OBSERVANCES-------------
Passover - Lev. 23:5
While not a holy day per se, Passover is a day of commemoration of when the Lord “passed over” the homes of the Israelites and spared those families of the 10th plague that fell on Egypt: the slaughter of the first born of unprotected families.
You can read more about it in Exodus chapter 12. Every family was instructed to take a lamb without blemish, to keep it with the family for three days, then kill it in the evening of what we call Passover “day.” (Remember that Hebrew days begin at sunset the evening before.) Then the blood of this unblemished lamb was to be collected and painted around the door to the family’s house. Any house with this covering of blood would be saved from the plague. Those who were not covered by the blood had their firstborn slaughtered.
The festival known as the Days of Unleavened Bread followed immediately after the Passover. Everyone was to rid themselves of any leavening products (yeast, for example) and not consume them in any form for these seven days. The use of only unleavened bread during this time was to remember how the Israelites were rescued from Egypt and left in such haste that the did not have time to let the yeast rise in leavened bread (see Exodus 12:39).
There are two holy days during Unleavened Bread, the first day of the festival and the last. Israel was instructed to do “no servile work” on them. These holy days, as are all holy days, are called annual Sabbaths, and the restrictions on work and other activity that applied to the weekly Sabbath also applied to the annual Sabbath.
Wave Sheaf Offering - Lev.23:9-14
Leviticus continues with the description of an offering of the first fruits of the early spring harvest. A small sheaf of grain is plucked, held over the head, and waved as an offering before the Lord, hence the name “wave sheaf offering.”
This day comes “on the morrow after the Sabbath” that’s in the midst of the Days of Unleavened Bread, that is, on a Sunday every year.
Pentecost - Lev.23:15-22
Pentecost literally means “count fifty,” that is, to count fifty days (v.16) from the Sabbath in the midst of Unleavened Bread to calculate the date on which Pentecost falls. Like the wave sheaf offering, this is always on a Sunday. It is sometimes called the Feast of Weeks since it falls seven weeks after the wave sheaf offering.
On the Day of Pentecost, a larger first fruits offering was to be made from the abundant spring grain harvest. While the wave sheaf offering was minuscule, the Pentecost first fruits offering was more substantial, given the much larger harvest in the latter case.
SIGNIFICANT EVENTS OCCURRING ON SPRING HOLY DAYS
Most of the events of greatest significance surround the death and resurrection of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit. The timing and sequence of these is obscured by our Good Friday crucifixion/Easter Sunday resurrection tradition, so let’s lay that aside for the moment and view His passion through the eyes of Jesus’ followers, who were quite familiar with the spring holy days.
Significant Events on Passover
The most significant event that has fallen on Passover after the initial rescue from Egypt is the crucifixion of Jesus. Paul says it this way: Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. (1 Cor 5:7).
John the Baptist called Jesus “the lamb of God which takest away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). And indeed He is! The parallel is astounding. The blood of the unblemished lamb that the Israelites painted around their doors rescued them from the certain death of their firstborn. The blood of our Savior, the Lamb of God, represents His physical death and our rescue from eternal death.
The best scholarship says that the crucifixion occurred on the day of Passover, probably in 31AD. He died in the afternoon (ninth hour) just before sunset when the Jewish day ended. The Last Supper was held the evening before, which was also part of the same Jewish “day.”
Significant Events on Days of Unleavened Bread
Since this festival begins immediately after Passover, then at sunset on the day Christ died (at the end of the Passover), the first day of Unleavened Bread began, and that day is one of God’s annual Sabbaths. This sequence is key to understanding the sequence and timing of events during what we call Holy Week.
You see, there were two Sabbaths that week: the annual Sabbath of the first day of unleavened bread (Wednesday night into Thursday) and the weekly Sabbath (Friday night into Saturday).
People were eager to remove Jesus’ body from the cross quickly that fateful afternoon so that it would not remain there on the Sabbath, but the Sabbath day spoken of was not the weekly Sabbath but the annual Sabbath of the first day of unleavened bread, as John’s Gospel makes clear.
The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. (John 19:31)
Ask any Jew what a “high day” is, and you’ll be told it’s an annual holy day!
We can now begin to put together a chronology of events during Holy Week, a chronology that supports Jesus’ saying that He would be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights (Matt. 12:39-40) and not the one day and two nights called out by our Good Friday/Easter Sunday tradition.
Significant Events on Wave Sheaf Offering
The Sunday of the Wave Sheaf Offering is the day we call Easter Sunday, and it is tempting to associate it with Christ’s resurrection as is traditionally done in the Easter Sunday tradition. Let me offer an alternative association, supported by scripture, that is also fully supportive of Christ being in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.
We go to Matthew chapter 28 to see what’s going on...
In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. (Matt. 28:1)
Next, the women encounter an angel who rolls away the stone from the tomb, who tells them:
He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. (Matt. 28:6)
In other words, the Lord had already risen prior to the stone being rolled away. The only reason the stone was moved was so that the women could “see the place where the Lord lay,” which was now empty, except for the burial clothes left behind (John 20:5-7).
How much prior? We can only rely on Jesus’ own words (Matt. 12:39-40), which say He would have been resurrected three days and three nights after He had died on Wednesday afternoon. That means His resurrection would be on Saturday afternoon, which would have been on the weekly Sabbath.
So, if the resurrection wasn’t on Sunday, what did happen that day, and how does what happened relate to the wave sheaf offering?
John’s Gospel gives us a clue. After seeing the empty tomb, Mary lingered a while, and Jesus appeared to her. Part of what He told her was not to touch Him, because He had not yet ascended to the Father.
Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. (John 20:17).
Later that evening, Jesus appeared again, this time to ten of the disciples – Thomas was missing (John 20:19-24). At this time, Jesus didn’t instruct them not to touch Him, so perhaps His ascending to His Father had occurred earlier in the day.
That would mean Jesus Himself was the real “first fruits” offering that was previously typified by the sheaf of grain that the priest presented.
The Apostle Paul makes this connection as well, because he calls Christ the “first fruits,” speaking of His singular resurrection prior to the resurrection of those who are His at His coming (1 Cor. 15:20-23).
Significant Events on Pentecost
Originally Pentecost was the day on which God gave Moses the law on Mt. Sinai. Later tradition holds that it was also on this day that the walls of Jericho fell.
Most important of all, Pentecost is the day on which the Holy Spirit was manifested to the 120 gathered after Christ’s ascension, and it marks the beginning of the church age. With the coming of the Holy Spirit and His empowerment of those in the early church, the church began to fulfill the commission Christ gave it immediately before His ascension 10 days earlier (Acts 1:8).
As was the case with the other spring holy days, the later event that fell on Pentecost (coming of the Holy Spirit) was more profound than the earlier event (giving of the Law).
---------------FALL HOLY DAYS AND OBSERVANCES---------------
Let’s go back to Leviticus chapter 23 and continue reading where we left off. What follows is a summary of each fall holy day, so I suggest you read the full description in your Bible for yourself.
Feast of Trumpets - Lev. 23:23-25
Little is stated about Feast of Trumpets in Lev. 23 compared to all the other holy days and observances. What we learn is this:
It occurs on the first day of the seventh month (Tishri)
It is a Sabbath.
There is a blowing of trumpets.
It is a holy convocation.
The trumpet blown was not the usual silver trumpets of the temple but the shofar or ram’s horn, which is associated with Abraham taking Isaac to Mount Moriah as an offering (Gen 22). Tradition has it that the ram’s left horn was the “first trump,” and the ram’s right horn was the “last trump.” (Sound familiar?)
The celebration itself culminated in one final blast of the shofar. Instead of the usual short blasts that are used to sound warnings, the final blast – the “last trump” -- is a long one, signifying victory or good news.
Day of Atonement - Lev. 23:26-32
Unlike the other holy days which are days of feasting, the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur in Hebrew) is a day of solemn fasting (a day to “afflict your souls” as Scripture calls it). It comes nine days after the Feast of Trumpets on Tishri 10.
The day was so solemn and the fasting so important that whoever neglected to fast was to be cut off from Israel (v.29). Whoever violated the solemnity of the day (by working) was to be destroyed (v.30).
Feast of Tabernacles - Lev. 23:33-43
The Feast of Tabernacles is a week-long celebration five days after the Day of Atonement (Tishri 15-20). This timing places the festival during the large fall harvest. The first day of the festival is a holy day, but the celebration continues for a full week.
What is unusual about this festival is that the Israelites were to construct temporary dwellings (booths or tabernacles) in which they were to live for the duration of the feast. This is a reminder that the nation of Israel lived in temporary dwellings for 40 years after being rescued from Egypt.
Last Great Day of the Feast - Lev. 23:39
The final holy day that God gave to Israel falls on the next day after the Feast of Tabernacles. It is sometimes associated as part of the Feast of Tabernacles (an eighth day of feasting), but I have separated it because Lev. 23:39-42 specifically says the Feast of Tabernacles lasts for seven days, after which there is to be a holy day (v.39). Jesus also called it out separately as the “last great day of the Feast” (John 7:37).
SIGNIFICANT EVENTS THAT MAY OCCUR ON FUTURE FALL HOLY DAYS
It’s easy to be confident in the parallels between God’s spring holy days and their fulfilling events because those events have already happened. What will happen in the future must necessarily be more tentative, but many Bible prophesy scholars see events unfolding the way I will describe below.
There are also many other events in prophesy that must come to past before the ones you will read about. The book of Revelation alone is filled with messages to churches, scenes in heaven, seals, trumpets, woes, bowls, plagues and other signs that can be tied to the holy days or their defining events.
Finally, don’t be surprised if other events that have parallels with the fall holy days come before these ultimate ones. Remember, for example, that Pentecost had at least two earlier significant events associated with it prior to the ultimate event of the coming of the Holy Spirit. The fall holy days come be the same way.
With that in mind, let’s look at parallels between the fall holy days and major future prophetic events.
Feast of Trumpets – Christ’s Return
The most highly significant event to be fulfilled on the Feast of Trumpets is nothing less than the return of Christ to this earth! There are seven trumpet blasts in the book of Revelation, and when the seventh angel sounds the seventh trumpet – the last of the trumpets – it announces the imminence of Christ’s return.
“And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.” (Rev. 11:15)
The trumpet theme is also prevalent in the writings of the Apostle Paul:
“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thes. 4:16-17)
Speaking of the resurrection of the dead in Christ at the time of His return, Paul also writes:
“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15:52)
Day of Atonement – Satan Bound
The final act of ridding the world of evil influence and the ultimate fulfillment of the Day of Atonement itself is when Satan and his demons are cast into the bottomless pit so that humanity is rid of their pervasive and perverse evil influence (though they will be released again after 1,000 years).
“And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season” (Rev. 20:1-3).
Feast of Tabernacles – Millennial Reign
The Feast of Tabernacles pictures the next event prophesied in Revelation which is the thousand-year reign of Christ over the earth (Rev. 20:4). We who are Christ’s at His return are to be kings and priests, under Christ, to serve our God, reigning on the earth (Rev. 5:10).
With Christ now ruling and Satan bound, we will begin the process of renewing, redeeming, and restoring all of creation to how God intended it to be. And the renewal is not just the physical creation but also all its systems, structures, and belief systems. As this happens, the evidence that God’s way works will be right there before everyone’s eyes.
No longer will people say, “Know the Lord,” for all will know Him! (Jer. 31:34) He will be right there, up close and personal. His works and mighty deeds will be visible for all to see. No longer will we see through a glass darkly, for now we are seeing everything face to face. (1 Cor.13:12).
Life will be indescribably good! People will see first hand the abundant goodness of their creator… and live it!
Last Great Day – Final Resurrection
When the thousand year reign has ended, those who survived the tribulation or were born during the 1,000 years will have seen the glory of God first hand. The vast majority will have received Christ as their Savior. But what of those who were dead at Christ’s return who had not accepted Him as savior?
Revelation 20:11-15 pictures a time when the thousand years is complete and all the dead rise to physical life and appear before God. They see with their own eyes the utterly transformed world and state of its affairs. They are also reminded of their own lives.
I personally believe that the vast majority will finally have their eyes opened and will joyfully and tearfully accept Christ as Savior. Scripture says that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11). I believe this will be in awesome reverence and out of sheer joy. No force will need to be used. It will be 100% voluntary.
There will undoubtedly be a few (very, very few I pray) that will still rebel against God, and for them the destination is the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15).
WHAT SHOULD WE BE DOING NOW?
I hope you have found the article interesting and clearly demonstrating some of the parallels between God’s holy days for Israel and some of the highly significant events we find in scripture. It’s a long read, and I appreciate your sticking with it this far.
But what’s more important than gaining information is finding your next steps after reading it. What should we be doing now? After all, it’s been 2,000 years since the last highly significant event. How do we know it won’t be another 2,000 years until the next one?
I suppose that’s a possibility. Maybe people in Jesus’ day thought the same thing since before Jesus it had been 15 centuries since the last significant event had occurred. For the most part they were blindsided to Jesus’ first coming. We don’t want to be blindsided to His second.
On the other hand, world events and other Christian news seem to indicate that Christ’s return may be closer than you think. Whether you agree or not, I suggest taking the following four actions.
1. Be Absolutely Certain of Your Standing with God
When the events pictured by the fall holy days start occurring, they will come quickly. Not only that, the difficulties that will arise before Christ’s return will be severe for most people. Don’t wait to get right with God when you’re inundated with trials. Now is the time to strengthen your relationship with Him, because you’re going to need that strength in the days ahead.
If you are not yet a believer in Christ and would like to begin a relationship with Him, say this simple prayer:
“God, I know that I am a sinner. I know that I deserve the consequences of my sin. However, I am trusting in Jesus Christ as my Savior. I believe that His death and resurrection provided for my forgiveness. I trust in Jesus and Jesus alone as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank you, Lord, for saving me and forgiving me! Amen!”
If you just said that prayer or you are already a believer, then seek out other believers to worship with and learn from. Dive into your Bible so you can get to know your Lord better. And above all, plus up your time in prayer. The time is coming when you will be praying your guts out. Now is the time to learn how.
2. Watch Alertly
Matthew 24:42 tells us to watch, because we don’t know when the Lord is coming. Be alert to what’s going on around you. World events, politics, disasters, and the general rise of evil and cold heartedness can all be indications that the day of His return is closer than we think.
Matthew 24:5,11 warns of deceptive preaching, those that come declaring that Jesus is the Christ but still deceiving many. Therefore, watch out for false teachers and false prophets.
Matthew 24:6-7 warns of wars and rumors of wars, with nation rising up against nation. Therefore, watch world events.
Matthew 24:7 continues with a warning of famines, pestilences, and earthquakes. Therefore, watch for natural disasters.
Matthew 24:9-10 predicts tough times ahead for believers: affliction, betrayal, and murder. Watch for these.
Matthew 24:12 says that the love of many (many!) shall wax cold.
Second Timothy spells it out in more detail.
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Tim. 3:1-7).
That’s quite a list. Sound familiar? It should, because it’s happening right now!
In addition to being forewarned, we are also to be blessed for our watching.
“Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching… Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.” (Luke 12:37a, 40).
3. Wait prayerfully
Only the Father knows when Christ will return. Even the disciples had a hard time grasping that. (Acts 1:6-7). So, we are to wait. And I suggest we wait prayerfully.
In the model prayer that Jesus gave His disciples (which we call the Lord’s prayer), He says we should pray for God’s kingdom to come… on earth as it is in heaven. (Matt. 6:10).
We need to be particularly prayerful as we encounter those who scoff at the notion of Jesus’ return or even say that He has returned already. (Yes, there are so-called churches that teach this terrible lie.)
We are warned that people like this will appear, especially in the last days.
“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation… The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:3-4, 9)
4. Work faithfully
There is the temptation to ignore all going on around us and just wait it out until Christ returns. After all, won’t this earth pass away? Won’t heaven be great? Why should we care?
Jesus set the example of working now while we can, because a time is coming when we can’t.
“I [Jesus] must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” (John 9:4)
Speaking of the times prior to His return, Jesus says,
“Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.” (Matt. 24:46).
The Apostle Paul is particularly emphatic about our need to be doing our Father’s business right up to the day of the Lord’s return. After writing extensively about the resurrection, our change from mortal to immortal, the destruction of death and the grave, and the superiority of our spiritual bodies to our fleshly bodies, you might think Paul would dismiss any effort in this present age. But, no, instead he says:
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” ( 1 Cor. 15:58).
Steadfast! Unmovable! Always abounding!
Our labor is not in vain!