“These are the appointed feasts of the LORD, the holy convocations, which you shall proclaim at the time appointed for them” (Lev 23:4). With these words, God instituted seven feasts for Israel to observe under the Mosaic Covenant. Not only was each of the מוֹעְַדִים (mô‘ădîm – “feasts”) intimately connected to Israel’s agricultural harvests and thus Yahweh’s provision for the nation, but each also served to remind Israel of Yahweh’s past redemptive acts on her behalf. In other words, the celebration of these seven feasts year after year recapitulated the pivotal milestones of Israel’s history so that she would remember God’s gracious provision and redemption (cf. Ex 12:25-28; Deut 16:10-12). However, these truths do not exhaust the Feasts of Israel of their profound significance. Each מוֹעֵד (mô‘ēd) possesses an eschatological or prophetic aspect, meaning that each in essence is a self-contained prophecy. Colossians 2:16-17 clearly confirms this particular facet of the feasts, describing each “festival” as “a mere shadow of what is to come.” But to what future realities do these seven feasts point? Colossians 2:17 continues with the following words: “The substance belongs to Christ.” The Gospel accounts clearly teach that the Lord Jesus Christ, the True Israel, recapitulates the history of Israel in His sinless humanity (e.g. Matt 2:13-15; Hos 11:1). Therefore, if the feasts recapitulate Israel’s history as a nation, and if Christ Himself recapitulates that same history in His sinless person and work, the feasts are shadows of Christ and the New Covenant, ultimately foretelling the entire New Covenant ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ on behalf of His Church.
All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise indicated.
I define the Feasts of Israel as the original seven feasts given by Yahweh to Israel at Mount Sinai: Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles. I will not discuss the typological significance of the Sabbath or the Jubilee Year in this paper.
A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT), ed. William L. Holladay (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1971; reprint 1988), 186.
See Leslie McFall, “Sacred Meals,” in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, ed. by T. Desmond Alexander, Brian S. Rosner (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 750-1; Elwood McQuaid, The Outpouring: Jesus in the Feasts of Israel (Bellmawr, NJ: Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1990), 13; and Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal, The Feasts of the Lord (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 13-14.
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines recapitulate in the following manner: “to repeat the principal points or stages of: SUMMARIZE.” Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed. (Springfield, IL: Merriam Webster, 1993. Webster, 1993), 975.