Saturday, October 5, 2013

Bible study on the Feasts of the LORD in the New Testament

God recently gave me the opportunity to lead a Bible study at church on the Feasts of the LORD in the New Testament. As I prepared for the Bible study, I approached it with an open mind, seeking just to find the facts and draw conclusions only based on facts. As such, I present in this post what I found and my conclusions on what I found.

First, let me begin by indicate the scope and limitations of this post and Bible study. It is meant to be a mere overview of the feast days in the Bible, particularly as they are mentioned in the New Testament Scriptures. My study does not cover all possible mentions of the feats. Further I present the feasts in the order that they appear in the Jewish calendar.

1. Passover/Pesach and Unleavened Bread
From my study, Passover and Unleavened Bread observance are the only feasts commanded in the New Testament for Christians. Jesus first commanded it, that the Passover feast should commemorate his sacrifice (Luke 22:19). Then Paul, speaking to Gentiles in Corinth, declare that they must keep the feast, not in the old Jewish way, but with the new meaning infused into the feast by Jesus (1 Cor. 5:6-8).

Finally it is clear that what apostle Paul refers to as the Lord's Supper is different from what we call communion and celebrate today. The Lord supper according to Paul was an activity that involved more eating than just bread and more drinking than just a small cup or sip of wine (or grape juice). So abundant was the feasting at the Lord's supper that some people were drunk, while others came expecting to have food and were hungry (1 Cor. 11:17-34).

Finally in Acts 20:6, we see that Luke (a Gentile) also use

2. Pentecost/Shavout
Unlike Passover, there is no explicit command for the keeping of Pentecost. Despite that, the apostles were obviously together on that day (Acts 2:1). Paul made special arrangements to keep this feast in Jerusalem, despite other Gentile Christians wanting him to minister to them (Acts 18:18-21;20:16).

However, I would be hard pressed to state that Christians are commanded to observe the festival.

3. Feast of Trumpets/Rosh Hashanah
Unlike the previous festivals, Feast of Trumpets is not explicitly mentioned. In fact, the feast is only referred to in the New Testament implicitly through symbolism. Perhaps the best way to identify symbolic references to this feast is to browse the New Testament scriptures for allusions or references to the blowing of a trumpet or trumpets (See Matthew 24:31; Revelations 11:15-19; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 1 Cor. 15:51-52).

4. The day of Atonement/Yom Kippur
This feast is the only one that I consider not a "feast" as it is actually a fast. In Acts 27:9, the feast may be alluded to as "the Fast". The symbolism of this feast is mentioned through Hebrews Chapters 9 and 10 (Hebrews 9:6-14,24-28; Hebrews 10:1-3,11-13).

5. Feast of Tabernacles/Booths/Sukkot
Like the fellow fall festivals, Feast of Tabernacles is not explicitly mentioned in the New Testament, except for the references to the observance of these Festivals and events in the life of Jesus. Jesus goes up to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast, even though he was risking his life in doing so (John 7:1-14). On the Last Great Day of the feast, Jesus announces the promise for living water for those who are thirsty (John 7:37-39). The symbolism of this feast is also alluded to in Revelations 21:1-6, where God comes from heaven to dwell with human beings and establishes a living stream that quenches the thirst of all the inhabitants living in God's earthly residence.

Concluding points
From these findings, I conclude that

  1. The festivals/feast days were as much a part of the Jewish calendar as they were of the Gentile Christian calendar. Gentiles like Luke use the calendar to mark times and significant events in his account and retelling of the history of the early church and the biography of church leaders and apostles such as Paul.
  2. One feast observance is explicitly commanded, both by Jesus and apparently even by Paul. This one feast explicitly commanded for Christian observance is not tied to the ceremonial laws nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14). Passover and Unleavened (Exodus 12) comes before the Sabbath in Exodus 16 and the giving of the 10 commandments in Exodus 20. The very first Passover was kept before a tabernacle or temple was instituted. 
  3. There is no evidence that Jesus commanded the discontinuation of the observance of these festivals or feasts. Rather, the feasts continue to be alluded to throughout the New Testament Scriptures.

I will hopefully in my next blog post thoroughly analyse why Christians should keep the feast of Passover and Unleavened bread.

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