Leviticus 23 talks about the Sabbath principles and the seven festivals of the Israelites, which are the Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement and Tabernacles. Why are these seven festivals and the teachings of the Sabbath put together? What is the spiritual significance? What kind of spiritual meaning do the seven festivals have?
Historically, there have been many different interpretations of these seven festivals, but the inspiration from the Holy Spirit that we received is that the seven festivals represent the seven different stages of Christian spiritual development. Of course, it can be further extended to the Body of Christ as a corporate Spiritual person and her seven different stages of life progress and maturity.
Let’s first talk about the principles of the Sabbath. Why do people have a Sabbath? Why should people work for six days and rest on the seventh day?
While everyone was discussing this issue, I was moved by the Holy Spirit and asked everyone the following questions. If you were God, how would you design a plan for the Israelites, churches, or even ordinary humans to seek God, eventually know Him as well as grow in His ways? Could it be that God doesn’t have the ability to supply people’s basic needs to survive so He let people labor for six days? Or is it just because Adam committed sin, and God wanted to punish him to let him sweat and labor? Probably not, because God dropped down manna from heaven in the wilderness and gave it as food to the Israelites. He also gave quail to the Israelites as meat to eat. It is obvious from here that it’s not because God can’t supply the basic needs of people and so He let people work for 6 days. Instead, there are good intentions behind the six days of work. People can constantly realize their own shortcomings through the six days work, and they can also know more about their need to know God.
But not everyone understood what I meant. I asked a friend in the meeting, who was a doctor, if she would still be a doctor after she goes to heaven. She said that she believes that there are still professions in heaven. She saw a testimony that said that angels also have different occupations. I don’t think that she understood my question. I asked another member of the Bible study who is an accountant if she would still be an accountant in heaven. She said that she may not need to. I said that according to Acts 17 which we read last week, God has set the time and boundaries of lands for everyone so that we can seek God and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him. Without the permission of God the Father, nothing will happen. So her profession as an accountant is God’s way of helping her to know Him better. The same applies to my doctor friend. Apart from the fact that what we are doing can benefit others, God mainly feels that these professions will help us better understand Him.
I shared this, and people seemed to gradually understand what I was saying. I continued to share that the best way for us is to imagine God as a teacher who trains us in class, or to imagine God as a parent who trains and disciplines His children. The best way for teachers to teach is to give students a little homework to check and see if they have learned anything from class. Anyone who has gone to school knows that if the teacher doesn’t give homework or have exams, it’s easy to forget the things you’ve learned after the course is finished. But if there is an exam pressure, the knowledge that we learn will leave a deep impression on us and will not be easily forgotten.
In the same way, the principle of six days of work and resting on the seventh day established by God is like this. This doesn’t mean that not doing anything on the seventh day of the Sabbath is in accordance with God’s will. God’s will is to give us a day to reflect on what we’ve learned after six days of work and study.
For example, if you apply for Graduate School, you need to prepare for the GRE exam. At the time I took the GRE exam, computer testing was still new. The computer test was designed as follows. If you correctly answer questions in the first level of difficulty, a new more difficult level will appear. If you continue to answer correctly the questions will get more difficult until the exam ends. However, if you answer wrong on the first level of difficulty, you will continue answering questions at that level until the exam ends. Both seem to be answering the same amount of questions, but the scores of the test results will be very different.
Similarly, the path of life that God has designed for us is the same. For example, it took the Israelites more than 40 stations to pass the trial when they left the wilderness to reach the Promised Land. Some of them died in the wilderness and were never able to enter the Promised Land. But Caleb and Joshua were able to enter the Promised Land. God’s promise to every Israelite is the same, but not everyone can enter the richness of God’s promise.
The number of man is 6 because humans were created on the sixth day. So the first six days can represent human efforts. The seventh day is a temporary end to our human efforts to find God, know God or share the number of days of knowing God.
I recently accompanied my daughter to take part in her first Easter Egg Hunt. The Sabbath principle is actually similar to the design of an Easter Egg Hunt. Pastor Bill Johnson said that God hides the treasure for us not from us. An egg hunt is designed for parents to hide the eggs. The purpose of it is to let the children find them. The parents hide the eggs in more obvious places for the smaller children to easily find.
Acts 17:26-27 (NIV) says: “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.”
We need to realize that God’s intention is to let those who are lost find Him, so He has arranged life, which is what the six days represent. He hopes that people will eventually find Him, which is what the seventh day represents. Some people don’t find God early in their life so he extends their life giving them decades of continuous searching for God.
Many people are fortunate to find God early, and enter the reality of the Sabbath, which is entering into God’s rest. If man has rest, naturally, God also has one. God is Our Father. When His lost son returns home, He naturally rests. This is the practicality of the Sabbath. However, some people are not lucky enough. They struggle for a lifetime seeking God but still haven’t found Him. They have been stuck in the principle of the first six days and haven’t entered the principle of the seventh-day Sabbath. When man doesn’t find God, he has no peace. When God hasn’t found his lost sheep, he doesn’t rest.
This is the practicality of the Sabbath. Can people, who have found God, know more about God every day and make progress in being filled with God? This is another cycle. This is the circumstance of the Israelites. They are God’s chosen people, but they still have to continue this cycle, constantly escaping from the six-day natural self, and constantly entering the reality of the seventh day Sabbath. In other words, the first stage is like a Christians’ journey of salvation, and the second stage is like a Christian entering the sanctification process.
This Sabbath is a weekly principle and also an annual principle. It is the principle of a human being, a Christian, or an Israelite. It is also the principle of a group of people, the State of Israel, and church, which is the body of Christ, in its entirety.
The reason why this chapter started to talk in general about the Sabbath and then later the seven annual feasts of Israel is because it is trying to highlight the general principle of the Sabbath cycle. As the chapter continues it covers the seven festivals of the following year. When each festival is about to end, they must return to the general principles of this Sabbath. Seven equals six plus one. Six represents human effort and one represents God’s rest. Man was given six days of work but should enter into the rest on the seventh day.
To start with, let’s look at the first festival. The first festival is the Passover. We all know the story of the Passover. It is the story of Jehovah leading the Israelites out of Egypt, to the wilderness, and finally to the Promised Land. We also know that the spiritual meaning of the Passover is Christian salvation, and transfer from Satan’s dark kingdom to the kingdom of light of God’s beloved Son.
I shared in the meeting that we Christians have entered the reality of the Passover, but how many friends and even family members are still struggling in the dark? It is a difficult struggle, and the process of struggling was in the principle of the first six days of the Sabbath, that is, they were not able to find rest on the Sabbath day. The reality of the Sabbath is not to argue whether Saturday or Sunday is the Sabbath. The reality of the Sabbath is that both God and man have rested. If you haven’t found God yet, you haven’t entered that rest. The Bible also tells us, “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4:9-11) So as Christians we must endeavor to enter into this rest every day. You must continually enter this rest moment by moment and day by day. You can’t say that you automatically have it since the time you were saved. No, the verses above mentioned clearly that we must make every effort to enter that rest.
We can call being saved the first cycle. It’s a shame that many people stay stuck in this cycle for their entire lives. We can liken this to quests that are completed in online games. Many get defeated in the first round and never get to the second level. The second level is entering to the rest daily and experiencing the transformation of our soul. This will bring us to the next festival.
But after the Passover, you can’t just lie down and sleep. In the words of the Chinese, this is only the first step in the long march. The second day after the Passover, which is on the fourteenth day of the first month of the Jewish calendar, is the Feast of Unleavened Bread (which begins on the fifteenth day of the same month). Although the cycle of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is seven days, it’s definitely not just seven days. Its principle applies to a cycle of seven days. In other words, we all know that the Feast of Unleavened Bread represents Christians who should live a sacred life. How can it be just left behind after seven days? This also should be for a lifetime. Seven days only means a cycle, so the Feast of Unleavened Bread once again goes back to the seven day principle of the week-long Sabbath that was established in this chapter. We should spend the rest of our lives eating unleavened food, that is, to be constantly filled with the life of Christ, and being transformed into His image. This is level 2 (the second quest) of the game. Many people have also been defeated at this level. Think about how many Christians are saved, but have never lived a life of sanctification throughout their lives?
After the Feast of Unleavened Bread, we aren’t sure about the specific time and period when the third feast of the Jews, the First Fruits, is to be celebrated. At the Feasts of First Fruits, the Jews dedicated the first fruits (e.g. field crop) to God as a sacrifice. Remember, the first two festivals can take place in the wilderness. When the Jews are wandering in the wilderness after leaving Egypt, they could celebrate the Passover or the Feast of Unleavened Bread, but could not celebrate the Feasts of First Fruits. Why? Because in the Feasts of First Fruits, they need to offer the first fruits of the crops from what they sow in the field. They must enter the Promised Land, and work hard so that they can dedicate the first fruits of their labor. We all know that the wilderness represents the Christian’s soul undergoing transformation, and entering the Promised Land represents a certain degree of spiritual victory. First of all, it’s already considered a victory for the Israelites to be able to enter the Promised Land. Being able to operate and produce the first fruits in the Promised Land is a step closer to further victory. In terms of our spiritual experience, the experience of the Feast of First Fruits is a sign that Christians were not only saved, but also for a period of time were free from sin and living an unleavened life. This then will produce to a certain degree the fruit of the Holy Spirit. It can even produce gifts of the Holy Spirit, testimony, and effects of its spiritual work outside, allowing God to be pleased with our ministry and conduct. This is the spiritual meaning of the Feast of First Fruits.
This would be considered the third level (or third quest) of the game. In this level, God’s spiritual requirements and requirements of the spiritual sacrifices are different. Christians use a variety of spiritual explanations to explain the seven feasts of the Jews, but the inspiration that we received is the fact that these seven feasts not only represent the seven feasts God gave to the Jews, but also some spiritual stages and the course of development. They also represent the seven different stages of spiritual growth that an individual Christian can experience on earth. I shared in the meeting that we don’t have enough time to study the relationship between the Number seven mentioned in the book of Daniel, and the seven bowls, seven seals and the number 7 etc. in the book of Revelation. But I have a feeling that these sevens and the seven feasts of the Israelites may have a relationship to some extent. No one knows when God’s economy will be completed, but my guess is that this mystery may be contained in the seven feasts that Jehovah gave to the Israelites.
I started to have a lot of prophetic dreams beginning in 2015. Many of my dreams were scenes of heaven, so I especially pay attention to other people’s testimonies who claim they have seen heaven. Actually, witnessing heaven is a rising trend in recent decades. In the United States, a female prophet named Kat Kerr is one of them. She claims that she has been to heaven thousands of times. One of the testimonies she mentioned was that she saw some Jewish festivals in heaven, and they even used some of the patterns and signs used by the Jews. She asked God why there were some signs of Jews here. God answered her and said, “This is originally mine, I just lent it to them.”
If this testimony is true, if heaven continues to celebrate some Jewish holidays, then to a certain extent it explains that this cycle will not just end on earth, it will continue in heaven. What I noticed most about other people’s visions about heaven is that everyone’s distance and understanding about God is quite different. We still have so much to learn about God.
I am not here to talk about the testimonies of heaven, but to talk about the spiritual life cycle of Christians and their different stages of spiritual growth. In addition to offering the sheaf in the Feasts of the First fruits, they also need to offer a male lamb one year old without defect for a burnt offering. What is the spiritual meaning of this? Leviticus 23:13 (NIV) says, “together with its grain offering of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour mixed with olive oil—a food offering presented to the Lord, a pleasing aroma—and its drink offering of a quarter of a hin of wine”. What do these sacrifices represent? To be honest, I am not entirely clear, but if you look at this pattern of development, the Lord does not require the Israelites to offer anything at the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. They can just enjoy God’s providence. But it is different in the Feasts of the First fruits. Those sacrifices mentioned above must be offered to the Lord.
What does this mean? It’s like a family. When a child is still small, parents do everything for them. They just have to eat well and have no responsibility. But if the child grows up to a certain age, and still does not do anything, and wants to have everything done for him/her, it either means the child has a disability, or, the parents are spoiling him/her too much. This is not normal. The things between God and us are family matters. We’re in the house of God. The Heavenly Father is our father. The Lord Jesus is our Savior, our elder brother, and our bridegroom. The Holy Spirit is our helper, and we are born again by the Holy Spirit. As members of God’s family we should help each other with His family matters. One day, Our Father hopes that our life will grow to a place that we can help Him a little. We can do something, put something on the table during His feasts so that He can be satisfied and we can let the priest get supplies of grain offerings, and let other young people be fed. However, today, in the Body of Christ, how many Christians have offered their first fruits when they reached a “grown-up” age, and yet still have their diapers on, waiting for others to feed them? I don’t think there is anything wrong with being fed by someone else, but it’s a little abnormal when you are just waiting for others to feed you. Many Christians should be able to offer a male lamb one year old without defect. Although the lamb is only one year old and has lesser spiritual experience, at least there is no defect. You can please God and testify of His salvation to a certain extent. The finest flour represents our conduct and how much we have experienced the changing work of Christ’s salvation in our character or souls.
Basically what we are saying here is that even a young lamb (or Christian) has a limited dedication to God. It’s not about the amount of service that counts, just the fact that even a young Christian can do something for the Lord.
The fourth festival, Pentecost is also known as the Shavuot. After 49 days of offering the sheaf, a new grain offering is presented the next day (fiftieth day). Remember, the Jubilee is the 50th year after seven cycles of sabbatical years (a total of 49 years). Daniel’s prophecy of the destiny of the Israelites is seventy weeks, which is 490. This is divided first into seven weeks, then sixty two weeks and then one more week. I don’t fully know the relationship between these 7 and God’s seven feasts for the Israelites, but I personally think that God is letting the Israelites and Christians complete His destiny through the cycle of 7 to reach spiritual maturity. In other words, these 7 are just game quests that God has set up for us to learn, and this game is a tool for God to educate His children to grow. I don’t think it’s important to guess in detail what kind of practical meaning each cycle will achieve. Rather, the most important thing is that we cherish every one of the 7 cycles that God has put us in and learn the lessons He gives us. When the time is complete, God will naturally lead us out of this cycle.
I think it’s meaningless to focus our attention on the days, the new moon, when the Rapture will happen, or any other auspicious day. The most important thing is that God wants us to achieve spiritual growth through this design.
Pentecost is the day of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and it’s also the birth of the church. This feast of Pentecost is very unique and is the day when the Gentiles were grafted into God’s family. When the brother of the Lord, Jacob, declared the church to accept the Gentiles, he quoted some words of the prophet, “God had pre-selected the Gentiles. Originally, they were not called God’s chosen people but today, they would become one.”(Acts 15:14-21) In other words, using popular expression, Pentecost is the passing lane set by God. God has chosen Israel, but if Israel doesn’t play well in this game, God will guide other players to play. This is not to eliminate the Israelites, but to put pressure on them to actively participate. Although Pentecost is about harvest and richness, it has specifically mentioned that “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor.” (NIV, Leviticus 23:22). This reflects the thoughts of God I just mentioned.
The offerings of Pentecost are more abundant, including two loaves of bread as a wave offering, seven male lambs, each a year old and without defect, one young bull and two rams. “They will be a burnt offering to the Lord, together with their grain offerings and drink offerings. Then sacrifice one male goat for a sin offering and two lambs, each a year old, for a fellowship offering. The priest is to wave the two lambs before the Lord as a wave offering, together with the bread of the first fruits.” (NIV, Leviticus 23:18-20). In short, the sacrifice is richer than the experience of the Feasts of the First fruits. Pentecost is often used to indicate the filling and outpouring of the Holy Spirit. I personally feel that these sacrifices show the gifts of the Holy Spirit after experiencing its filling and outpouring. It also shows the fruit of the Holy Spirit brought about by the changing work of the Holy Spirit in us.
We can say that Pentecost is a hurdle. It is of great significance both to the church and the individual. There is also a great controversy in theory and practice. I have been an evangelical Christian for 13 years. Later I was forced to look for prayer and healing everywhere due to ten years of infertility. I inadvertently left my original church and was exposed to the Charismatic and Prophetic movements. I have been involved in evangelical churches as well as charismatic churches. My process of seeking healing was intertwined with the process of seeking the in-filling of the Holy Spirit. Finally, I was filled with the Holy Spirit in 2015 and gave birth to my miracle baby in 2017.
My experience being filled with the Holy Spirit was unforgettable and I gained so much through it. When the Holy Spirit was poured out on me, the two men who prayed for me were overtaken and none of us could stand up. We tried to stand, took several steps backward and fell to the ground. I’ve also experienced the Holy Spirit filling my body with electric current. I don’t share these experiences to boast. People that come from the same background as I do have a lot of fear and suspicion about the Holy Spirit. We often don’t dare to challenge the traditional teachings because of the fear of man. In turn, we can miss God’s richest blessings for us. This issue is not only about the negative attitudes of various churches who don’t accept this. The attitude of the individual toward this issue determines whether you can receive the richness of the Holy Spirit. Countless numbers of people have experienced this without fear. Teachings that cause fear on this subject aren’t necessarily right. Though it can be a spiritual hurdle to experience the infilling of the Holy Spirit, don’t be afraid and give up. Just believe, receive and enjoy the richness of His goodness to us.
Although the Feasts of the First fruits and Pentecost has a fixed date every year, the Bible has not mentioned their specific dates. In addition to the unpredictable date of the feast day of the sheaf of first fruits, spiritually it also signifies that a person needs to be mature during this uncertain period of time. This is not a unilateral decision of God, but a period in which God has given a certain degree of freedom and grace so that people can seize the opportunity to grow. After the second detailed sixty-two weeks of Daniel, there was an uncertain period of time until the last seven weeks came. Biblical scholars usually called this period the Grace Period.
No one knows when the grace period ends. Although God is full of grace, we cannot keep refusing to grow up and mature indefinitely. There is a specific date for the Rosh Hashanah, which is the 10th of July. I guess there may be some connection between the Rosh Hashanah and the Festival of Trumpets. It is at some point when the time that God has established, has come. If people continue to refuse to repent or mature, God will begin a process of “ripening”, which of course may include changes in the environment and the striking of disasters etc. But still, God has good intentions. His purpose is to let people repent and further mature.
There is also a specific date for the Feast of Tabernacles, which is July 15. The Feast of Tabernacles is the last festival of the Israelites. It signifies the rejoicing and celebration after the final harvest. It’s a festival that is celebrated by both God and man. This signifies the Israelites have lived in tents. Although there is a remembrance to Christ’s suffering outside, there is a celebration of the union of God and man.
The Feast of Tabernacles is not only the ultimate hope of the Israelites and the church, but also the highest stage of spiritual maturity in an individual Christian. I believe that through the ages, many spiritual Christians have achieved this very high stage of spiritual experience (although it’s on earth, it’s like in heaven) of being in harmony with God. In their experience, perhaps they have been celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles every single day.
On the last day of 2017, I had an experience of being brought to heaven in a dream. In heaven, the Lord pointed to a few people and said to me, “Do you want to be like them?” The Lord pointed out a few people to me, but I didn’t identify who they really were, but I had a spiritual feeling they might be Godly people. Certainly, I’m longing to be like them.
Looking back at this experience, I shared in the meeting that one of my life’s ideals is to be able to reach spiritual maturity on earth and achieve the experience of Sukkot that many saints have reached. The thing that many people who have gone to heaven regret is losing the great opportunity to pursue God on earth. Let’s encourage each other not to waste our beautiful time on earth.
I hope that you will be able to finish the game designed by God and get a great reward from Him and become a winner in life!