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Do The Feasts Of Israel Validate Preterism?

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By Virgil - Posted on 21 January 2004

A while back I started analyzing the seven feasts of Israel, and their typological relevance in regards to the parousia of Christ, and especially in regards to the soteriological implications of the parousia. Naturally, I was skeptical at first about how deep the typology goes, but the more I looked into the relevance of the feasts, the more amazed I was about how the feasts exonerate preterism and the inspiration of the word of God.What peeked my interest into the study of the feasts from a preterist perspective, was a casual conversation with a dispensationalist Bible professor. He mentioned to me that he believes the Second Coming of Christ will take place in the month of September of the Gregorian calendar. When I inquired why he believes so, he said that the Second Coming of Christ would continue to parallel the feasts of Israel, just as it happened in the first century, so His return would take place during the Feast of Trumpets, in the month of September.

As a recap, in Leviticus 23, Moses is being told to follow these regulations:

  • Feast of Passover – first month, fourteenth day; Passover celebrates redemption from Egypt
  • Feast of Unleavened bread – first month, fifteenth day; Unleavened bread celebrates departure from Egypt
  • Feast of First fruits – first month, second day of the feast of unleavened bread; First fruits celebrate provision for harvest
  • Feast of Weeks – fifty days after Feast of First fruit; Feast of Weeks celebrates thanksgiving for harvest
  • Feast of Trumpets – seventh month; Celebrates rest, beginning of a new time, new year
  • Day of Atonement – seventh month, tenth day; Celebrates purification of the nation
  • Feast of Tabernacles – seventh month, fifteenth day; Crops are gathered, the harvest is complete

    From a typological perspective, we know from the Scripture that the first four feasts closely reference specific events in the ministry of Christ. What will we make of the remaining three feasts?

    Passover = Christ is sacrificed, He is the Passover Lamb

    Unleavened bread = Burial of Christ

    First fruits = Resurrection of Christ

    Weeks = Coming of the Holy Spirit

    Trumpets = Return of Christ

    Day of Atonement = Resurrection, judgment and redemption of all believers

    Tabernacles = Kingdom of Christ is instituted

    I will quickly cover the first four feasts, and discuss the timing and the relevance of the last three feasts in light of preterism.

    The Passover

    The Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew (passing over for protection), is a direct reference to the instructions given to Moses by God in Exodus 6:6-8. The Passover is a “time of new beginnings”, and it is celebrated on the 14th day of the first month of the Jewish Calendar, Nisan. The Symbolism in the Passover is extremely powerful. John the Baptist introduced Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). It would be safe to assume that the Jews knew very well what John was referring to. As an example, on the 10th on Nisan, a lamb was chosen by the High Priest. The priest would lead the lamb into Jerusalem, while the crowds would cover the streets with palm branches and would sing Psalm 118, “Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.”

    On the same day, Jesus entered Jerusalem in the same atmosphere, identifying himself as the Lamb of God (John 12:9-19). Edersheim wrote:

    Everyone in Israel was thinking about the Feast, Everyone was going to Jerusalem, or had those near and dear to them there, or at least watched the festive processions to the Metropolis of Judaism. It was a gathering of universal Israel, that of the memorial of the birth-night of the nation, and of its Exodus, when friends from afar would meet, and new friends be made; when offerings long due would be brought, and purification long needed be obtained and all worship in that grand and glorious Temple, with its gorgeous ritual. National and religious feelings were alike stirred in what reached far back to the first, and pointed far forward to the final Deliverance.

    What is even more fascinating, according to tradition, during the Passover, each lamb had a sign on its neck, with the owner’s name written on it. Often, only the initials of names or messages would be written on these signs. In Christ’s case, the Hebrew initials for “Jesus of Nazareth and King of the Jews” were YHWH, forcing the High Priest to ask Pilate to reconsider the writing, but being turned down. (John 19:21-22).

    Unleavened Bread

    The Feast of Unleavened Bread, or Hag HaMatzah begins immediately after Passover, and it celebrates the hurried exodus from Egypt; so fast did Israel leave Egypt, that there was no time to let the dough rise: “They baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought forth from Egypt, for it was not leavened, and could not delay.

    The requirements for celebrating this holiday are:

    1. On the first day, the family should remove all leaven from their home (Exodus 12:15)

    2. The feast was a high-Sabbath, in that one could only do work on the first and seventh day. (Exodus 12:16)

    3. For the seven days, they could eat only unleavened bread. (Exodus 12:15)

    Traditionally, Jewish celebration of the feast is as follows:

    The symbolic ritual of searching for chametz (leaven) begins at nightfall on the fourteen day of the Jewish month of Nisan, the evening before the Passover. The leavened bread is removed from the household with the exception of ten small pieces, which the woman of the house hides throughout the rooms of the house. The man of the house lights a candle, and takes a feather, a wooden spoon and a paper bag to search the house for chametz. When a piece is found, he uses the feather to sweep the chametz onto the wooden spoon and then placed it into the paper bag. This is done until all ten pieces are found. The bread is then taken outside and burned. Afterward, the following prayer is said: “Any chametz which is in my possession which I did not see, and remove, nor know about, shall be nullified and become ownerless, like the dust of the earth.” (Biblical Holidays, p. 167)

    Clearly, the leaven in this case symbolizes sin. The matzah bread, without leaven, pierced with a fork, bruised and broken before being eaten for seven days, is a direct reference to Christ, having no sin, being killed so that mankind can have life. Paul makes a direct reference to this feast when saying: “Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Cor. 5:7-8)

    In Christ’s death, sin has become obsolete, and was “cauterized”, burned away, becoming “like the dust of the earth.”

    The First Fruits

    The First Fruits celebration, Yom HaBikkurim or Sfirat Haomer (translated as “a promise to come”), takes place on the day following the Sabbath after Passover. Sometimes there is some confusion between the First Fruits (also called Early First Fruits) and Pentecost (Latter First Fruits). Traditionally, during the Feast of First Fruits, only natural first fruits would be brought and waved before God, such as wheat, grapes, olives, etc, while during Pentecost, finished products were brought before God, bread, wine, and oil. This holiday was celebrated so that Israel would thank God, and appreciate the Land given to them.

    On this day, the High Priest would wave a sheaf, tied with red ribbon to God. This is evidently a symbol of Christ being resurrected, and being the first fruit of the resurrection of the dead: “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.” (1 Cor. 15:20).

    We know from Scripture that Jesus was resurrected on the day of Early First Fruits, being himself the first to defeat death, not physical death, since many have died and were resurrected before Him, but the death caused by sin, causing mankind’s separation from God. In the same typological manner as the waving of grains, Jesus, with his red-stained hands and feed was placed before God on the day of the resurrection as an example of what was to follow: the rest of the harvest.

    Feast of Weeks

    The Feast of Weeks, also known as Pentecost, or Shavuot is a two-day Jewish holiday, marking the end of the barley harvest and the beginning of wheat harvest. Taking place fifty days (seven weeks per Lev. 23:15) after cutting the first sheaf of barley, the Pentecost presents some fascinating typology to the New Testament reader. We know that on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came over many believers, but the parallels go beyond this event:

    First Pentecost Pentecost After Christ
    Ten Commandments Given Holy Spirit Given
    Fifty Days from leaving Egypt Fifty days from resurrection of Christ
    Law written on tablets Law written on people's hearts
    Three thousand die Three thousand are saved
    The letter of the Law The Spirit of the Law

    So far, probably nothing new has been presented in the parallelism of the four feasts and the major events in Christ’s life, however, the following three feasts are what some may consider difficult in explaining. Many believers look to the Feast of Trumpets, Yom Kippur and The Feast of Tabernacles as yet future parallels that will occur when Jesus “comes back”, but there is evidence that not only confirms the three feasts to point to specific first-century events, but in turn, they prove that the “Second Coming of Christ” indeed took place in the first century. Because of the strict observance of these feasts, we may even be able to accurately pinpoint the date and hour of Christ’s return, of the judgment, and of the beginning of the Kingdom, assuming that typology is consistent and that we can know for sure where on a calendar we can place the last three feasts in AD 70.

    The Feast of Trumpets

    The Feast of Trumpets, also called Rosh Hashanah (the beginning of the year) in Hebrew was to be celebrated at the beginning of the Jewish civil year. Initially, this holiday had no name, but eventually it has come to be known as Yom Teruah, or “the day of the sounding of the shofar.” Because of this, it has been called The Feast of Trumpets, a day which was meant to call attention to the coming Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. The shofar (a ram’s horn) is blown during the festival, to serve as a memorial (Leviticus 23), and to illustrate themes like the Jewish New Year, the Day of Judgment, the day of Remembrance, or the Birthday of the World. Interestingly enough, in the Jewish tradition, Jews saw this as a day of rejoicing:

    Normally, someone standing in judgment would dress somberly, cloaking himself in black robes and not trim his beard. After all, he does not know how it will turn out. Israel is different, though. We dress in white and cloak ourselves in white and trim our beards and eat and drink and are joyous for we know that God will do miracles for us. Being judged by God is at once an awesome thing — He knows all — but He is a merciful God. Even judgment itself need not be devoid of joy.” (Talmud Rosh Hashanah 1:3).

    Without question, the Feast of Trumpets has a significant eschatological significance, but in A.D. 70, the feast of Trumpets took place on Sept 24th, exactly 50 days after the Romans burned down the Jewish Temple. Because traditionally preterists believe that the parousia took place at the time of the destruction of the Temple, this presents a typological inconsistency. Is it possible that the parousia actually did not become a reality until 50 days later, on September 24th? If Jesus really returned at the time the temple was burned down (believed to be August 5), what do we make of the relevance of the three fall feasts?

    The Day of Atonement

    Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement is also referred to as “the Day of Redemption.” This day pictures the transference of sin. It is a time of fasting, cleansing, and reflection, which is to be observed once a year. The Day of Atonement was Israel’s reminder that the daily, weekly, and monthly sacrifices made at the altar of burnt offering were not sufficient to atone for sin.

    Yom Kippur takes place on the 10th day of the month of Tishri, when participants would wear white clothing to symbolize that sins will be made white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). Some Jews traditionally wear a kitel, the white robe in which dead people are buried; this is interesting in that at least in Preterist circles, removal of sin is often associated with the resurrection from the dead, and the “coming to life” of the believer. Wearing a dead man’s clothing while celebrating the Day of Atonement has a profound effect on the theory that the resurrection from the dead is spiritual matter, and confirms that dead physical bodies have no relation with “the resurrection from the dead.

    John also present a picture of the Day of Atonement in Revelation 7: “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice saying “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne and the Lamb” and He said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

    Feast of Tabernacles

    The Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkoth (meaning “booths”) refers to the temporary dwellings that Jews are commanded to live in during this holiday, just as the Jews did in the wilderness. The Feast of Tabernacles lasts for seven days and ends on the twenty-first day (3x7) of the Hebrew month of Tishri, which is Israel’s seventh month. The feast is relevant because God chose to have a tabernacle among Israel, to offer them His presence, comfort and protection.

    In Revelation we read: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” (Rev. 11:15)

    John also describes the New Jerusalem, the tabernacle of God coming down to earth: “...and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God” (Rev. 21:10)

    The idea is that we can clearly connect the arrival of the “kingdom of God” or “tabernacle of God” mentioned in Revelation to this specific feast.


    The study of the Jewish Feasts raises a couple of questions that should be addressed by Preterism:

    1. Are the feasts just a typological coincidence with events in Christ’s life and ministry?

    2. If the feasts are typologically relevant, then

    a. Did the Parousia take place at the destruction of the temple or 50 days later?

    b. Was the arrival of the New Jerusalem on Earth a “progressive” event, happening over a period of time starting with the Feast of Trumpets and ending with the Feast of Tabernacles, or all these events took place on 9th of AV when the Temple was burned down?

    c. Is there any relevance to the 50 day period between 9th of AV and the arival of the Feast of Trumpets?

    While I believe more study is necessary to answer these questions, and I simply do not have enough time to go into even more detail, perhaps a careful study of historical records following the immediate destruction of the Jewish Temple could shine some light on what happened, if anything, during the three fall Jewish feasts in A.D. 70.

  • Apollos's picture

    I've been looking at the feasts for the last 25 years and am amazed at the shadows which God gave the Hebrews in their holy convocations.

    Regarding the timing, I'm inclined to go with your suggestion "b." Although, there were seven individual feasts, they were really known as three feasts, or three feast seasons (2 Chron. 8:13)

    Just as Unleavened Bread includes Passover, Unleavened Breadh and Firstfruits; Tabernacles includes Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles.

    The significance of the burning of the temple in that year is seen on the Day of Atonement when the only sacrifice for sin remaining was the Lamb of God. The copy of the Most Holy Place was gone and those who had not embraced the heavenly reality had no forgiveness of sin for the first time in the history of Old Covenant Israel.

    It must have been a chilling experience.

    Good stuff.

    Jim Wade

    Virgil's picture


    Thanks for the comments. I would tend to agree with a "progressive" arival of God's tabernacle over some period of time starting with the burning of the temple, and ending obviously with the feast of Tabernacles.

    I would definitely like to take a look at David Curtis' work on this....I didn't know that anyone was doing any work on this topic until Don Preston mentioned it. It is definitely fascinating, and it certainly throws off futurist claims about events in AD 70....

    gilly's picture

    Virgil, CHRIST WAS BORN IN SEPTEMBER at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles (that's why there was no room at the inn--not because of the census). The angel came to John the Baptist's father in June while he was performing his priestly duties ( 8th course of Abia) He and Elizabeth conceived after that and when Mary came to see Elizabeth she was 6 months pregnant (..December..) 9 months from December is September...thought you would like to add that to your study...I don't know if it validates preterism, per se, but it challenges the traditions of man and the church once again.

    dkpret's picture

    Virgil, if you have not listened to David Curtis' material on the feasts, you have missed a gold mine! He has done a tremendous amount of research in this area and presented just enough to make you salivate at the Christ's Covenant Seminar there with Sam last October. It was fantastic, and he has a CD out that is more indepth. I highly recommend that you (everyone!!!) get David's material!
    And Dave, if you read this I want my cut for this glowing endorsement!! Did I write it like you told me to?? HAAAAA!!!

    NHPreterist's picture

    I second the recommendation on Dave's Feasts Of The Lord Series. It is nothing short of fantastic! I believe that Dave presents information in the series that leaves the partial futurists without a leg to stand on.

    mateeni's picture

    Maybe the 45 days difference between Daniel 12:11 (1290 days) and 12:12 (1335 days) is the time from the destruction of the temple to the Feast of Trumpets?

    Sam's picture


    Thanks for the article. Typology has its merits, no doubt. There are dangers as well, as I am sure you know. Nonetheless, there is no doubt of the language in Revelation and the Feasts.

    Eschatologically, Zechariah 14, AFTER the "day of the Lord" and the "parousia", and WHEN the "living waters" go forth (Revelation 22 as well and Ezekiel 47), the nations are told to come up to Zion to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. Those who do not will be considered "accursed." This is clearly in the time frame of the "age to come" (our current age). It's not a universalist picture, is it? In Ezekiel's Age to Come Temple vision there has been a change. The Passover continues (45.21), but the Day of Atonement is not mentioned. Trumpets either. Thus, two feasts continue according to the Prophets: Passover (I will eat again in the kingdom this vine and bread) and Tabernacles (deliverance from Egypt/World through entering the Tabernacle of Christ's Body). Both of these assume a people of God on earth. Thus, maybe here, we can begin to paint a picture of what life will be in the Age to Come assemblies of God on earth. Maybe Scripture does not leave us in the Age to Come without Scriptural witness and direction.

    Samuel Frost

    Virgil's picture

    Sam, thanks for pointing this out and enforcing what I said. For example, it is obvious that "the day of the Lord" is not necessarily "the return of Christ". I really can't see the timing of these events to be a coincidence and the AD 70 fall feasts to be just random events.

    Chronologically then, we have:

    Day of the Lord = August 5, AD 70, Temple Destroyed - Matthew 24, Luke 21, Mark 13

    Feast of Trumpets = Sept 24, AD 70, Parousia, Return of the King with blowing trumpets - Matthew 24, Luke 21, Mark 13

    Day of Atonement = Oct 4, AD 70, Resurrection, Day of Judgment, Atonement - Revelation 7, Revelation 20

    Feast of Tabernacles = Oct 9, AD 70, God's Tabernacle Coming to Earth - Revelation 11:15

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