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Ancient Bible Feasts
A Telescopic View of Israel, Christ and the Church
By Albert Bailey
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2015 Rev. Albert Bailey
All rights reserved.
The Jewish Sabbath
Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of rest, an holy convocation: (Holy gathering together), ye shall do no work therein: it is the Sabbath of the LORD in all your dwelling.
— Leviticus 23:3
In Leviticus 23:3, the Lord gave Moses the instructions concerning His weekly Sabbath. Keep in mind that the weekly Sabbath is not one of the seven feasts but a day of rest. These seven feasts were celebrated on a yearly basis and some fell on the same day of the week each year (such as Easter Sunday on our calendar), while others fell on different days of the week (such as the Fourth of July).
The Lord said in verse 3, "Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of rest." Why did God choose the number six as the number of days of labor? We know it took six days for God to recondition the earth for man to have a place to live (Gen. 1:31).
In this book, we will discuss the meaning of certain numbers and how and why they appear in the Scriptures. The number six comes from the Hebrew word shesh. Six is the number of humanity, the number of human incompleteness and imperfection. Humanity falls short of God's mark (Rom. 6:23) just as six falls short of seven, one of the perfect numbers in the Scriptures; the other perfect numbers are one, three, eight, and ten.
Here are a few facts about the number six as it appears in the Scriptures. Goliath in the Scripture represents a type of Satan. For instance, he was six cubits tall, and he had a spearhead that weighted six hundred shekels of iron. He also wore six pieces of armor (2 Sam. 17:5–8) a total of 666. The floodwaters were in the six hundred years of Noah's life (Gen. 7:6). God also created man on the sixth day of the week (Gen. 1:27–28). "God said six days shall mark man's labor" (Ex. 20:9). Only six generations of Cain's descendants were recorded in the Bible (Gen. 4:17–23). The Scriptures say that he was wicked and slew his brother (1 John 3:12). The sixth commandment prohibits the worst sin, murder. The sixth clause in the Lord's Prayer relates to sin. The man recorded in 2 Samuel 21:20 had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot. The reverence here seems to be that humanity cannot walk right or do right without God. This pertains to their lifestyle. We can see that the number six is the number of man and comes short of perfection and completeness.
Here are Scripture facts that pertain to the number seven, which comes from the Hebrew word shaba. It is the number of divine completion and perfection. It means to be complete and perfect. The book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, completes the written word of God. It has the mark of the number seven; it mentions seven golden candlesticks, seven stars, seven letters, seven churches, seven spirits, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls, seven thunders, seven dooms, seven new things, and seven persons. The word Jesus is found in it seven times, the words Jesus Christ are found seven times, the Dragon has seven heads, with seven crowns upon his head. The Beast also has heads.
The Sabbath or seventh day of the week belongs to God, who made it holy (Lev. 19:3, 23:3). The seventh day completes the week. God commanded Joshua and the children of Israel to march around Jericho one time for six days (one short of seven), and on the seventh day, they were commanded to march around the city seven times. On the seventh time, the walls fell.
The prophet instructed Naaman to dip in the Jordan River seven times, after the seventh time he came up clean. Seven signs or miracles were recorded in the gospel of John so we might believe (John 20:30, 31). Jesus uttered seven last sayings while on the cross. There are seven parables recorded in Matthew 13. Seven spiritual weapons were recorded in Ephesians 6:12–17. This equips us with the full armor of God. From these examples taken from the Holy Scriptures on the meaning and use of these two numbers, we will get a better understanding of the Lord's Sabbath.
Not all covenants had signs, but some did. We refer to the covenants by name such as the Mosaic covenant or the Abrahamic covenant. However, God referred to all covenants as His covenants. The Noahetic, Abrahamic, Davidic, and Mosaic covenants were the only covenants in which God gave signs. The sign of the Noahetic covenant is the rainbow (Gen. 9:16, 17). The Abrahamic covenant had the sign of circumcision (Gen. 17:11). In the Davidic covenant, the sign is the Son of David (2 Sam. 7:12–16).
The one we are interested in is the Mosaic covenant, which had the sign of the Sabbath. Exodus 31:13, 15–17 reads,
"Speak thou also unto the children of Israel saying, my Sabbaths shall ye keep; for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generation. Six days may work be done: but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy unto the Lord: whosoever doeth any work in the seventh day, he shall surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever
From these verses of Scripture, we can see that the weekly Sabbath applies to the children of Israel. It was a sign between God and Israel throughout their generations and the sign of the covenant God had made with the children of Israel at Mount Sinai. We call this the Old Covenant. Covenant being another name for testament.
One of the most important rules of Scripture interpretation is to know to whom God is speaking. The apostle Paul told the church at Rome, "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning" (Rom. 15:4). There are only three classes of people God speaks to in His Word. This is a principle of biblical interpretation called the Principle of the Ethnic Division. These three classes of people are Israel, the church, and the nations. The nations are in some places referred to as the heathens. At times, He speaks to all three classes at the same time, such as in the first eleven chapters of Genesis.
Here, in the above text it is clear that God was speaking to the nation of Israel, His covenant people. In addition, the weekly Sabbath was the sign of the covenant He made with them. It was to last throughout their generations. Matthew 1 tells us that there were forty-two generations from Abraham to the birth of Christ. Jesus lived under Mosaic Law, which lasted up until Acts 2 or the descent of the Holy Spirit. The Law came into effect well over four hundred and thirty years after Abraham was dead (Ex. 12:41). The Sabbath was not never mentioned in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph because it was instituted hundreds of years later. They worshipped God on any day they chose by building altars and offering sacrifices.
We are the children of Abraham by faith. Our circumcision is that of the heart. This is the sign of the new creation witnessed in the lifestyle of the believer. It is the sign of faith. The Sabbath, given to the children of Israel at Mount Sinai, was the token or sign of the Old Covenant.
Jesus observed the Sabbath day because He lived under the Old Covenant and was subject to the Laws of Moses. Jesus literally fulfilled those Laws by His righteousness, something no one else could or ever will do. With it, a new dispensation was born; this was the Dispensation of Graced, which is based on the finished work of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. A new standard of God's government came into effect with the birth of the church.
Seventh-day Adventists try to keep the Sabbath because they do not understand the simple meaning of the Principle of the Ethnic Division. In doing so, they place themselves under the Law. However, the Law was done away with in Christ.
So on what day should the church worship? Because we are the children of Abraham by faith, the Law has no power over us. We can worship God whenever we choose just as our spiritual father Abraham did as long as we do so in spirit and truth (John 4:24). That requires total focus upon God, which begins within the human spirit — thanking Him for His blessings and praising Him in the highest order for His redemptive and creative work and His ownership, glory, and person. Yet, there should be a day set aside when the people of God should come together to worship God. The writer of the book of Hebrews reminds us of this important fact: "Not to forsake the assembling of yourselves together" (Heb. 10:25a).
We see that the early church began meeting on the first day of the week; Acts 20:7 says, "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them." The first day of the week is Sunday. In the previous text, they had church service and the Lord's Supper while Paul delivered the sermon. In addition, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 16:1–2,
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gathering when I come.
The churches in Asia had been collecting and setting aside a special offering on Sundays when they met for worship. Paul instructed the church at Corinth that when its members gathered for worship on Sundays, they should lay aside a special offering for the Jerusalem church that Paul would take back. That would eliminate having that to do when he arrived there on his way to Judea.
Some Bible scholars believe that the early church started meeting on Sundays because that would eliminate having any identity with Judaism, whose adherents worshipped the Sabbath or Saturday. It could also be because the church was given birth on a Sunday. As we shall see in chapter 4, Pentecost is always on a Sunday. However, I believe it also had to do with the new beginning the church had in Christ with the resurrection being on a Sunday. In addition, as we shall see, the Sunday of the resurrection was also a feast day.
Sunday, the first day of the week, is resurrection day (Mark 16:2–6). Yet it is after the seventh day, Saturday; this makes Sunday the eighth day, with the seventh day being the day of completion and rest. Therefore, Sunday, the eighth day, is one above the day of completion and rest. In addition, it becomes the first in a new series representing two perfect numbers, one and eight. One is God's number or the number of unity, as we shall see in chapter 2. Eight is the number of resurrection or a new beginning.
The number eight comes from the Hebrew word sh'mownah. It is associated with resurrection, regeneration, or a new beginning. During the flood of Noah, the earth would be covered with water; the ark was a type of Jesus Christ, which passed through the waters, symbolizing a type of death. From it came eight souls — a type of resurrection for a new, regenerated world that had been cleansed by the flood and was experiencing a new beginning (Gen. 8:18). The Lord gave them instructions to replenish the earth, to begin anew. Therefore, we can say that the number eight is the number of a new beginning.
With the first day of the week being the resurrection day, eight becomes the resurrection number. For instance, God commanded Abraham to circumcise a male child on the eighth day (Gen. 17:12). It was the foreshadowing of the true circumcision of the heart made without hands in the putting off the body of sin in the flesh by the circumcision of our Lord Jesus Christ (Col. 2:11).
Resurrection is the great truth signified with the numbers one and eight. Christ was resurrected on the first day of the week, which was also the eighth day because it followed the seventh. The Scriptures recorded eight instances of resurrection other than Christ and those saints who rose after Him. Three are in the Old Testament, three are in the Gospels, and two are in the book of Acts. Eight writers in the New Testament tell us of the new beginning in Christ: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter, and Jude.
The church has life based on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and has a new beginning in Christ. Our spiritual life is in Christ. We died with Him in His crucifixion and rose with Him in His resurrection to a new beginning on the eight day. Sunday, the first day of the week, is the resurrection day and was the day of worship for the early church as seen in Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 16:2.
The Sabbath was given to the nation of Israel to keep throughout their generations; it was the sign of the Mosaic covenant between God and His nation Israel (Ex. 31:13, 15–17). The resurrection marked a new beginning between Christ and His church. Therefore, we worship on Sunday for we have a new beginning in Christ.
We can worship God on any day and at any time; we are not bound to any part of the Law. We have this freedom. I pointed all this out to prove that the early church worshipped on the first day of the week. Yet, also in the book of Acts, we see the apostle Paul, whenever entering a city, sought out his own compatriots, the Jews, on the Sabbath. He met with them when they worshipped in order to preach Christ. Therefore, let us not get caught up on what day we should worship. Believers should want to worship whenever they can, no matter what day of the week.CHAPTER 2
The Feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread
In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD'S Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread.
— Leviticus 23:5
We begin our study of the seven feasts recorded in Leviticus 23 with Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Passover, the first of these feasts, was observed or celebrated on the fourteenth day of the month of Abib (later given the name Nisan; see Neh. 2:1). Originally, this month was the seventh month of the year and is still the seventh month on the civil calendar. This month in conjunction with our calendar would be from mid-March to mid-April.
To get a full understanding of Passover and how it relates to Israel, Christ, and the church, we must go back to the birth of this feast in Exodus 12. Beginning at verse 2, God gave instructions to Moses and his brother Aaron concerning this feast.
This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak unto the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house. (Ex. 12:2–3)
Verses 5–6 read,
Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it from the sheep, or from the goats: and ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.
God told Moses and Aaron that the month they were in at that time, the seventh month, was to be the beginning of months. God changed the seventh month of Abib to the first month. He did not change the name of the month, just its number. The time of Israel's bondage was at a completion, as seen in and with the use of the number seven, the number that represents divine completion, which became the first month. The birth of Israel as a nation took place in a type resurrected in this first month, as we shall see in the next chapter. What we also see in the twelve chapters of Exodus in the number seven is a fullness of time. Israel had been in Egypt for 430 years (Ex. 12:41). The time of their departure was at hand, but God changed the seven to one; I believe this was because these are God's feasts (Lev. 23:2), and one is the number of God. God changed the seventh month to the first month to create a calendar of His own so the Israelites would keep up with His feasts. Here are some instances of the number one in the Word of God.
The Hebrew word for the number one is e'chad, which means "original," "first," "united." It is another of God's perfect numbers. Of all numbers, none can exceed one in perfection because it is a holy number that stands alone; it is the number of God. It is the primary number; all other numbers depend upon it for their existence. It is the number of unity and the source of all others. There cannot be a second without a first. So is it with God, the great first clause who is independent of all. All stand in need of Him, who needs no assistance from any person or thing.
One excludes all differences, for there is no second. It marks the beginning; we must begin with God. We should examine all other words or works by the first words of the Scriptures: "In the beginning God." If it did not begin with God, it would not be right. God first is the voice of the Scriptures. Jesus said, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33). God first is the great proclamation of the Scriptures and excludes all equality.
The changing of the seventh month into the first month speaks of a completion and total dependence upon God the number one. Israel's bondage ended in the seventh month. The seven now becomes one, meaning their bondage was complete and that the Israelites belonged to God. Remember that the feasts were God's, and all involved in them were set apart and became God's property.
Excerpted from Ancient Bible Feasts by Albert Bailey. Copyright © 2015 Rev. Albert Bailey. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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