The Purpose of the Feasts

By Lloyd Ellefson

As we study the history of the Israelites, we marvel at their unfaithfulness and God's faithfulness! When God called Abraham, He gave him the wonderful promise that through his seed all the nations of the world would be blessed! Before Abraham's progeny could inherit and possess the fantastic real estate promised to him, they would first have to dwell in Egypt for hundreds of years.

During the Israelites' sojourn in Egypt, they increased in numbers and became a small nation. They became slaves, their work became more difficult, and they were greatly oppressed by the Egyptians. That is why Egypt is called the house of bondage. At that time the Israelites made bricks and only contributed to the world system - Pharaoh's system, Egypt's system, the pagan system! God loosed them from that, so that they could learn to build in the kingdom of God! He arranged things so they could be profitable to God - not just to earthly rulers.

In God's deliverance process He raised up a man called Moses. God saved him from the Nile River, had him grow up in Pharaoh's house, and then had him spend forty years in the wilderness tending sheep. Then he received the call of God! Moses' brother Aaron was to be his mouthpiece. Through them God's people were freed from Pharaoh's stranglehold. Through them God brought about the deliverance He had promised Abraham long before he had become a nation!

God wants people to live with Him! This requires preparation, and it began when God chose Abraham and his descendants. He separated them from other nations and gave them wonderful promises. This preparation continued in the special feasts they were to observe.

The night before the Israelites left Egypt they were to celebrate the first Passover. It was the first of three great feasts. The Israelites were to eat the Passover lamb and be dressed in readiness to leave the country. Eating the sacrificed lamb and bitter herbs represented taking on the nature of a lamb. The blood, symbolizing the soul of the lamb, was to be put on the doorpost or entrance of their houses to keep out the destroyer. That meant their firstborn would not be destroyed together with those who did not have the blood on their doorposts.

Pharaoh typifies the world system, the flesh and our bondage to the flesh. Immediately after eating the Passover, a separation took place. They were actually delivered from Pharaoh; he lost his power over them. In type, the blood on their doorposts constituted a release and a deliverance from the rule of the world. So the first Passover represented or symbolized a deliverance.

God kept His promise and led them out of Egypt after exactly 430 years. In order to bring the Israelites into fellowship with Himself, God first had to deliver them out of Egypt or the world system. This was accomplished through the death of a lamb. As the Israelites ate the lamb, they symbolically received its nature. This symbolized Christ's death, and our participation in His nature by receiving Him. They then crossed the Red Sea (the waters of separation), and this typified our water baptism. Being led by the cloud symbolized being led by the Spirit.

God had a very unique plan and purpose for the Israelites - a plan that would later bring redemption to all of mankind. That is why He worked with them in a special way. At Mt. Sinai He made a covenant with them by giving them the law. The law, the tabernacle, and the feasts were related and interwoven for the express purpose of preparing a people to live with Him! God wants communion and fellowship with His people! The law provided the basis for fellowship; the tabernacle provided the environment; the feasts provided the means to have fellowship at different levels.

The feast of Pentecost (pente=50) came seven weeks and one day (fifty days) after the Passover. That is why it is called Pentecost; it is also called the feast of the first fruits. So the giving of the law and the feast of Pentecost coincide; they are one! The first giving of the law typified the New Testament Pentecost - the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and the receiving of a new law, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus! Our deliverance from the world system and the receiving of this new law are the foundation for our relationship with God!

In Romans 7 the law is compared to the husband and wife relationship. As long as the husband is living, the wife is bound to him. The law brings about a relationship between man and woman, making them husband and wife. So the law of Moses produced a relationship between man and God! The blessings of this relationship depended on Israel's obedience to the law.

The law included the pattern for the tabernacle, a dwelling place for the presence of God. The tabernacle was to be a place where the Israelites could receive forgiveness, and enjoy the presence of God - at least to a certain extent. It brought them into the household of God. The temple was also called a temple of witness, for out of it flowed all ministry.

These facets of deliverance - the Passover, the law, the tabernacle with its sacrifices and feasts - brought the Israelites into fellowship and communion with God; into a relationship and ministry on a certain level. Although they had a promise of more, their fellowship with God at the time they passed over the Jordan River into Canaan was on that level.

This pattern is repeated in Christ. He is the Lamb of God slain, and He is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus! This new law brings us into a relationship. Our body becomes the temple or tabernacle of the Holy Spirit, and out of it comes a witness of God. Thus the ministry of God comes out of the temple. The fellowship we enjoy in the Holy Spirit is in the realm of Pentecost; we have been taken out of the law of sin and death and placed into the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus! This is the second level.

Obviously there is also a third level, for three is the number of divine completeness. But before we discuss this level, let us take a closer look at what happens spiritually before we enter the third.

Christ came and established a new Passover; in fact, Christ has become our Passover! The pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost brought us into a new realm. He makes all things new! As we wrestle against the powers of darkness we can now have the victory by standing firm in the light of the Lord. The new law which we receive in Pentecost takes us out of the law of sin and death, and gives us life! That law is Spirit. The Spirit brings us life, and life overcomes death! That is why the disciples were told to wait in Jerusalem "for what the Father had promised." (Acts 1:4)

Just as Moses received the pattern for the first tabernacle in the law, so we receive the pattern for the new temple in the new law. The new law is spirit; we are now a spiritual people built up into a spiritual house to minister spiritual things. "And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 2:4-5)

Out of this spiritual house flows a spiritual ministry - a witness of truth. It brings us out of the religiosity of the carnal mind, and into a new dimension - one of truth! The Holy Spirit of truth searches the depths of God and leads us into all truth! It takes away our old concepts of God, the lies we thought were truth, and the old traditions. It brings us a true witness of who God is, and of who we are in Him!

In our pilgrimage we learn that we have to be delivered from our sense knowledge (Egypt), and that we have to receive the Christ. However, many Christians and religious groups do not want to let go of the natural; they cling to the fulfillment of prophecy in the natural realm. They want a natural temple like the Israelites had under the law of Moses, for they know nothing about enjoying their present spiritual realities. They are always returning to their natural thinking, and it constantly fights the spiritual.

Israel was a disobedient people. They always wanted their own way. As soon as they had to endure hardships or were in danger, they blamed Moses for taking them out of Egypt; they were always ready to turn back and serve the Egyptians again. When they got into Canaan, they found it difficult to follow the precepts of God; they wanted to be like other nations. Their disobedience and refusal to listen to the Lord allowed the Babylonians to capture them and to take them away into Babylon. This happened after they had come out of Egypt, entered Canaan, tasted and enjoyed a new life in a new land, and had experienced God's faithfulness. Because of their disobedience they were taken captive to Babylon - into the bondage of confusion, for Babylon means confusion. They settled there, and only a few came back to rebuild the temple.

This progression applies to us as well. We are children of God - spiritual Israel; we have received a wonderful inheritance! But if we do not consider our inheritance in God precious, we will be taken away into Babylon - back into the confusion of the world. Just as the Israelites settled in Babylon and did not want to go back to rebuild the temple, so those who return to their natural thinking, do not want to come out of it. They enjoy their comfortable pew and do not wish to be disturbed.

God has brought us into a better covenant, a better city! We have not come to Mount Sinai. "For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind." (Heb. 12:18) We have come to a spiritual place - a place that cannot be touched. The mountain that can be touched burned with fire; there was blackness, darkness, and tempest! We have not come to that! We may have been there, but this is not where we are at in our spiritual walk now.

In Exodus 19 Moses was to go up the mountain and talk to God, while the people were to stand at the foot of the mountain so they could hear what God said to Moses. In preparation for this wondrous event, the people were to consecrate themselves by washing their garments and refraining from sleeping with their wives. On the third day when the people stood at the foot of the mountain to meet God, Mt. Sinai was suddenly enveloped in smoke, blackness and fire, and the mountain began to shake violently as the Lord descended upon it. The sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder! It was such an awesome experience that the people were very frightened; even Moses was full of fear and trembling! So the people did not want God to speak to them directly; they only wanted to hear God through Moses, promising to do everything God told them to do.

The fire on the mountain symbolizes judgment. The scriptures speak of two kinds of judgment - water and fire. The Israelites encountered the first judgment when they went through the Red Sea. Judgment by water brings separation. Their baptism by water (the Red Sea) separated them from the bondage of Pharaoh and the world system. The fire that accompanied the giving of the law symbolized a different judgment. God's righteousness demands a judgment on our own righteousness. An inner cleansing by the judgment of fire has to take place. This judgment burns away whatever is of the flesh! The fulfillment of John the Baptist's words that Christ baptizes us with the Holy Spirit and fire, came at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out. Receiving the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus brings about a closer relationship with God!

The Israelites feared the fire, the smoke, and the sound of the trumpet, etc. To them it was a fearful thing, for they did not realize that God meant it for good. To us, judgment also seems like a fearful and terrible thing because we too don't realize that God means it for our good! All our carnal thinking needs to be judged; this is the judgment by fire!

We get excited about the baptism in the Holy Spirit - and it is wonderful! But we have to realize that in order to have a deeper relationship with God we need to be baptized with fire. This comes to us in the Holy Spirit! In order to enjoy and cultivate this relationship, we have to get out of our carnal thinking, because that thinking cannot understand spiritual realities. So the judgment on our natural thinking is very important - even though it may seem far from pleasant to us!

God was establishing a relationship with the people through the law, but the people were afraid of the process. For the "blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. For they could not bear the command, `If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned.' And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, `I am full of fear and trembling.'" (Heb.12:19-21) It was on that mountain that Moses got the law! We will never come to this mountain - not this week, next week, next year, or ever - unless we return to the law!

We have come to a different mountain! "But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels." (v.22) Notice that we have come to Mt. Zion; we have already arrived! Just as we have all appeared at that first mountain, we are now appearing at the second mountain - and this is Mount Zion!

Let's look at the tremendous contrast here. The first mountain is in the natural realm for it could be touched; it brought fear, darkness and death. The second mountain, Mount Zion, is in the spiritual realm for it cannot be touched; it brings life! It brings us to the living God; He is not a figment of our imagination! Since He lives in the unseen realm, He can only be known to us in Christ! He cannot be touched physically. He causes us to come to Him, and has brought us into a fellowship with Himself in the Holy Spirit! This relationship comes in a new law - the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus!

This law of life brings us to the heavenly Jerusalem - the city of the living God! It brings us into an intimate relationship with God! This relationship is very different and much superior to the one in the law of Moses. There is no fear in this city; there are no tempests! Why people desire to revert to a relationship with God under the law is beyond me! Why would they crave the sense knowledge that was theirs in Egypt, rather than learn to know God and receive from His abundance? Let us not be foolish! We want to be like the wise man who built His house upon the rock!

A mountain represents a kingdom or a rule. Natural Mt. Zion is a type of the heavenly Jerusalem, because it was there that King David established his authority. Every rule has to have some laws. But the law in the new kingdom does not resemble the laws in the old kingdom. God's kingdom is ruled by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus!

The spiritual rule we received at Pentecost is one of love - and love produces life; it overcomes death! The law of Mt. Sinai produced death, but the law of the Spirit brings life. Mt. Sinai can be touched, but Mt Zion cannot be touched. Now we have come to a new spiritual rule! So let us not go back to the other mountain where there is condemnation, law and judgment! If we hear this message and remain the same, we are not being changed by the word. The new rule is received by faith, and "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."

"For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God." (Rom.8:20-21) God subjected all creation to futility or vanity, but not without giving it the hope that it would be delivered from this slavery into freedom!

Peter speaks about a living hope! God "has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." (1 Pe.1:3b) This living hope is ours through His resurrection - not His crucifixion. This hope does not come and go; it is not one that just looks forward to going to heaven some day; it is a hope that is alive! Life has come and touched this hope!

"We have come to an innumerable company (myriads) of angels (messengers)." What message do these messengers bring from this holy mountain, this holy city, this heavenly Jerusalem, this living God? They are bringing a testimony of life, love and peace! The messengers of the old covenant brought messages of condemnation, law and judgment; these resulted in wilderness wanderings.

"But you have the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven." (Heb.12:22-23) We have been born into this body of the general assembly of the ecclesia, of all those who are the firstborn of God. This does not refer to a specific denomination; it is the body of Christ! It continues through the ages. It did not begin with us, nor does it end with a specific number of people.

"Who are enrolled in heaven." These names are written in heaven, or in the spirit! We have been given a new name, a spiritual one! That name represents our nature; it identifies us as those who are of Christ, and it is recorded in the heavens. The world knows nothing about this name; it does not know our true nature just as it didn't know Christ's true nature. Isn't it exciting to know that our name is recorded in the same place as His!

We have come to God, the judge of all! That's good news, isn't it?! Aren't you glad that the devil isn't judging us? Jesus said, "Agree with your adversary quickly." (Matt.5:25) Why not? What is he accusing us of? He can only accuse us of our old nature because he doesn't know anything about the new one! So why not agree with him? The old nature is completely evil and is only fit for death.

"And to the spirits of righteous men..." Isn't this amazing? We have come to the spirits of just men made perfect. Does that mean they are soul-sleeping? Do you suppose that Abraham, Moses, David, John, Peter, Paul, etc., were righteous men? Have we come to their spirits? If we have, then what are they ministering? In the days of their earthly pilgrimage they ministered life, so they will still be ministering life.

We don't recognize them as Abraham or David, but they are righteous men in the spirit. Since their spirits are alive, their spirits are not in the grave where their bodies are buried. If their spirits were united to their dead bodies, these men would first have to be resurrected before their spirits could be made alive! Their spirits are alive and we have come to them just like we have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of God. Is this too deep?

I believe this is tremendous! Can you imagine that this has been in the Bible all these years, and we have been so slow to appropriate it? What is the reason for this? Many really don't care about these spiritual realities. Scholars can quote the Hebrew and Greek, but their vision is glued to the natural. On the radio, in the teachings in religious papers, magazines, or from the pulpit, we seldom hear that we have come to Mt. Zion.

Once we have experienced this, it is not difficult to see at which mountain the people are worshiping. Although they want God, they don't want to hear Him! They don't want the judgment of God! If we do not want it, we are rejecting it.

We have also come to Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant! We have come to Jesus while we are here on earth; at the same time we are in the clouds. If we can receive this testimony that we have come to the church of the firstborn, then we have to receive the fact that we have come to Christ Jesus. If we still maintain that He is coming later, we have a problem. Evangelists invite people to come to Jesus, and then they contradict themselves by saying, "He is coming." How can the two be reconciled? They can't, for why should we look forward to His coming if we are already with Him and in Him?!

"...and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel." (Heb.12:24) I believe this refers to the sacrifice Abel offered, because "the blood" is not in the Greek manuscript. Abel's offering was better than Cain's, but the blood of Christ's sacrifice is much greater! Since the soul is in the blood, Christ gave His soul for us! This is the witness we receive in His blood!

"See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking." God is speaking! "For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven." (Heb.12:25) The Israelites did not escape the judgment just because they refused to receive the words that were spoken on Mount Sinai.

Do you suppose you could take the experience of that awesome spectacle of the quaking mountain enveloped in fire, smoke, darkness and lightning, and the sound of thunder and the crescendoing noise of the trumpet, away from the Israelites? Could you cause them to believe it was an illusion? They knew what they had experienced! Yet in spite of all that, they rejected God, His message and His judgment! If we had been at the base of that mountain, would we have been any different?

We have now come to a different mountain - to Mt. Zion! Are we as sure in this spiritual experience, as the Israelites were in the natural phenomenon they experienced? Are we hearing God's message of spiritual reality or are we turning away from it? If we turn away from God's message in the law, we will most likely also turn away from His spiritual message in Christ. If we can't receive the first judgment, how can we receive the second one? So let us not close our ears to Him who is speaking! For if the Israelites did not escape God's judgment, neither will we if we turn away from Him who warns from heaven!

At present, in the natural we are hearing from Mount Sinai, and in the spirit from Mount Zion. "And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, `Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.'" (v.26) He is shaking our earthy concepts as well as our spiritual ones! It is difficult for most of us to believe and accept the spiritual aspect.

If we have accepted God's spiritual message and testify to it, this testimony will not be understood, and will therefore be rejected. This helps us to understand why the religious systems reject the spiritual aspect of Christ, and tell people to listen to Moses and the ten commandments. But people cannot keep the law, neither are they hearing Moses! Jesus said, "If you don't believe Moses, you will not believe Me." Moses taught us that our own righteousness is unable to meet God's standards and requirements; so we need to repent and receive Christ's righteousness!

The quaking of the mountain symbolizes a loosening of our wrong concepts so that they can be taken away. Only truth will remain. "Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe." (v.28) The kingdom of God cannot be shaken! It is a kingdom of righteousness, peace, love and joy in the Holy Spirit! Everything that is ours in the Holy Spirit remains steadfast and unchanging in Him! It cannot be moved! Praise God! If we abide in Him, we will never be moved - come hell or high water!

God's kingdom cannot be shaken; it is not a natural kingdom with its laws and condemnation. We have come to the heavenly Jerusalem! This can be said with authority, because this is what the New Testament is all about! This new spiritual dimension brings us the strong assurance that we know we have come! We have been joined there by the spirits of righteous men! (v.23) Although we don't know them according to the flesh, we know them according to the spirit.

The law of Moses contained the pattern for the building of the tabernacle. The tabernacle of Moses was the culmination of that law. The giving of that law constituted the first Pentecost, and it was a type of the one which was fulfilled in Acts 2. Just as the first law was consummated in the building of a natural temple, so the second law, a spiritual law, was consummated in the building of a spiritual temple. The spiritual house, built of living stones for a spiritual priesthood, is the culmination of the new law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus! It is Christ who is building us up for a habitation of God!

The third feast, the feast of tabernacles, symbolizes our new habitation, our new life in Christ. It is a new existence - a new nature, a new realization of self, and a new place in which we live! This is a living relationship with the Father and the Son!

"Let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire." Don't you know that you are a temple of God? Out of the temple issues the river of life. Like the Spirit, it has the authority of God. Jesus said, "Out of your innermost being shall flow rivers of living water." (John 7) He spoke this of the Spirit. God's authority is in the Spirit. In Revelation it says that out of the temple, out of the throne or the inner part of the temple, comes the river that feeds the nations.

The purpose of these three feasts is to show us who we are called to be. We are called to be witnesses of the nature of God. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to be witnesses of Christ, and the three feasts show us the process by which we become these witnesses!

God bless you. Amen.

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