The Feasts of the Lord
June 17th, 1956 @ 8:15 AM
THE FEASTS OF THE LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-17-56 8:15 a.m.
The message this morning is entitled The Feasts of the Lord. They are seven in number, and all seven of them in their order are recounted in the twenty-third chapter of Leviticus – the twenty-third chapter of Leviticus: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, the third book in the Bible and the twenty-third chapter in that book. All seven of the feasts of the Lord are recounted in their order in this Book, the twenty-third chapter of Leviticus.
Now, these feasts are all types. They are shadows; they are adumbrations; they are prophecies; they are delineations of the plan and program of God hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of years before God brings it to pass.
"How do you know that, preacher?" In the second chapter of the Book of Colossians, Paul says that the holy day, the Sabbath day, all of the feast days – and the Sabbath was a feast day itself. The word "Sabbath" refers to a weekly Sabbath. It also refers to the feasts which were Sabbaths. Now, he says this of them: "They are a shadow of things to come" [Colossians 2:16-17]. The body, the substance, is Christ [Colossians 2:17], but these feasts that were instituted of the Lord back yonder, hundreds and hundreds of years ago, they are shadows, they are types, of the things that were yet to come and of things that are yet to come.
Some of them are fulfilled by our day. Some of them shall be fulfilled in God’s future day. But the feast was an adumbration, a shadow, a portent, a harbinger, an outline, a type of things yet to come. And the body and the substance is Christ [Colossians 2:17].
So we’re going to take these feasts, seven of them, and they have in them a delineation, a prophecy, an outline, a whole program of God from the day they were instituted until the final consummation of all the ages.
Now in the twenty-third chapter of Leviticus, beginning at the fourth verse, the first feast is in the fifth verse: the Passover [Leviticus 23:5]. The second feast is in the next verse: the Feast of Unleavened Bread [Leviticus 23:6]. The third feast is in the tenth verse: the Feast of the Firstfruits [Leviticus 23:10-14]. The fourth feast is in the sixteenth verse: The Feast of the Fifty Days [Leviticus 23:16-21]. We call it Pentecost – "fiftieth." The fifth feast is in the twenty-fourth verse: The Feast of the Trumpets [Leviticus 23:24-25]. The sixth feast is in the twenty-seventh verse: The Day of Atonement [Leviticus 23:26-32]. And the seventh feast is in the thirty-fourth verse: The Feast of the Tabernacles [Leviticus 23:34-36].
Now, this kind of a sermon is one that you can easily write down with a pencil. So take your Bible, if you have not another sheet of paper, and on one of the fly leaves at the back you can write these things down.
First, the Passover – Leviticus 23:5: "In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord’s Passover." All of us, I think – – and I need not dwell upon it – – all of us are familiar with the story of the Feast of the Passover. In the twelfth chapter of the Book of Exodus, you will find that feast and its institution recorded. On the fourteenth of Nisan, which God said to the children of Israel was to be a beginning of months, a beginning of days – it was the birth of the nation, it was the beginning of Israel as a people of the Lord going into that promised land, the pilgrimage out of bondage into the glorious liberty of the sons of God – and the Passover feast was the memorial of that redemption, that deliverance, and that salvation. And in Exodus 12:2, God says: "This is to be the beginning of months for you." This is the new day, the new era, the new privilege, the birth of the nation.
Now, the Passover lamb was slain toward sunset, in the evening [Exodus 12:6]. Evening to them was not like it is to us because the sunset marked the new day. The evening of the Jew was what we’d call an afternoon, say, about three o’clock in the afternoon – about three o’clock in the afternoon at the time of the evening sacrifice. The Bible uses that word "the evening sacrifice" [Exodus 29:39; Ezra 9:5]. It was made every day in the temple; and it was at three o’clock in the afternoon, the evening sacrifice.
Now, on the fourteenth of Nisan, the beginning of months, the first month, on the fourteenth of Nisan, the Passover lamb was slain. It was slain before sunset, which was the beginning of a new day, the fifteenth day. And the Passover lamb, the blood was caught in a basin and sprinkled on the door posts and on the lintels: a sign that this house, this family is publicly set aside for God [Exodus 12:1-13].
That means we’re not to hide the fact that we belong to the church, we belong to God, we belong to Christ; but we are publicly, openly, to set aside our houses for God. This is a Christian home, and there are some things you don’t do in a Christian home. This house belongs to God. There are some things you do do in a Christian home. The Passover feast publicly, openly, where everybody could see – the blood sprinkled on the doorposts at the front of the house and across the lintels above the door where you walked in – the house publicly set aside for the Lord.
Now the body of the lamb: it was to be of the first year; it was to be a male; it was to be without blemish [Exodus 12:5]. The body of the lamb was then roasted [Exodus 12:8] and the family, one lamb to a family [Exodus 12:3], and the family ate all of the roasted lamb; none of it was to be left until the morning [Exodus 12:10]. And if a family was not large enough to consume a whole lamb, they were to invite neighbors to share it with them [Exodus 12:4]. But it was to be a family group: one lamb to a family, all of it eaten, not any of it left beyond the morning. And they were to eat it with their clothes on, with their loins girt, with their shoes on their feet, and their staff in their hand [Exodus 12:11]. It is the beginning of the great pilgrimage, the deliverance, the salvation.
Now I say, all of these feasts have a tremendous adumbration. All of them instituted of the Lord are a shadow of a thing yet to come. Now, over here in the first Corinthian letter, the fifth chapter and the seventh verse, Paul says: "For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us" [1 Corinthians 5:7]. As the Passover was, as God says, "the beginning of months" to Israel [Exodus 12:2], so the cross and our faith and our forgiveness of sins in the cross is our spiritual birthday.
We begin the pilgrimage as a Christian from earth to heaven by looking in faith to the Lamb of God. We are converted at the cross. John said: "Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world" [John 1:29]. We know what he’s talking about – the Lamb of God: "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us" [1 Corinthians 5:7]. And that is our spiritual birthday when by faith we behold the Lamb of God, an atonement for our sins, and we receive Him in our hearts [John 1:12].
Now, the second feast began immediately after sunset. The second feast is the Feast of Unleavened Bread. "And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread; seven days it is to last, seven days ye must eat unleavened bread" [Leviticus 23:6].
Now do you see how immediately they follow one another? Now you look at this. All of this is ordained of God. Men didn’t conjure those up. God wrote it down.
Now look at this. Just before sunset, in the afternoon – – what they call the late evening – – the Passover lamb is sacrificed and the feast of the Passover begins [Exodus 12:2]. That’s just before sunset. Then at sunset is the fifteenth day of Nisan, and immediately the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins [Leviticus 23:5-6]. The fourteenth, late in the evening, the Passover is sacrificed; and then at sunset, immediately following, no interval between, the Feast of Unleavened Bread immediately begins.
Now what does that mean the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days? [Leviticus 23:6-8] And when I talked to you about the significance of numbers last Sunday, do you remember I said that seven, the number seven in the Bible, is God’s number for the totality, for the plentitude, for the fullness, for the all of it? The seven days refers to the entire fullness, the entire length, of a life of a Christian.
And unleavened bread, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, refers to the holy walk of the Christian that is to begin immediately after he’s saved by looking in faith to Jesus on the cross, the atonement for his sins. There’s to be no interval between. Immediately upon becoming a child of God, upon beginning our pilgrimage to heaven, immediately we are to begin walking the holy walk of the Christian [Luke 19:1-10]: the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Now over here in that same passage, in the fifth chapter of the first Corinthian letter, you will find – – now leaven is always in the Bible, leaven is a figure, a type of evil, of iniquity. Now Paul says in the fifth chapter of First Corinthians:
Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?
Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us:
Therefore let us keep the feast, not with the old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
[1 Corinthians 5:6-8]
The Feast of the Unleavened Bread began immediately after the Passover was slain, and it represents the pilgrimage of the Christian, the holy life, the holy walk of the Christian. And it was to last seven days – that is, all of the totality of the Christian’s life: evil purged out, the leaven purged out, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
All right, now the third feast. This is in the tenth [verse]. It is called the Feast of the Firstfruits. "Ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest . . . on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it" [Leviticus 23:10-11].
Now, let’s get them straight. The fourteenth of Nisan, the lamb was slain – the Passover was sacrificed. Then the fifteenth of Nisan, which is a Sabbath day, the fifteenth of Nisan begins the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread. Then on the morrow after the Sabbath, that’d be Sunday, wouldn’t it? That’d be the first day of the week. On the morrow after the Sabbath, the priest is to take a sheaf that has been gathered from the ripening fields of the barley harvest – that’d be way up into the spring, Passover time – he’s to take a sheaf, the firstfruits of the ripening barley harvest, and he is to present it before the Lord and wave it before the Lord: the Feast of the Firstfruits which is the harbinger, the promise, the adumbration of the full harvest that is yet to come. Now the priest was to do that. Here in the eleventh verse: " . . . on the morrow after the Sabbath" [Leviticus 23:11], he was to take the firstfruits and offer it unto God on the morrow after the Sabbath – that’s Sunday.
Now, who is this firstfruits? Let us turn to the fifteenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter, and we read:
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive
But every man in his order: Christ the firstfruits . . .
[1 Corinthians 15:20-23]
And when did He rise? On the morrow after the Sabbath – isn’t that right? Didn’t He? He arose on the morrow after the Sabbath [Matthew 28:1-7]. "But every man in his order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming" [1 Corinthians 15:23].
So on the morrow after the Sabbath, the priest was to take the first sheaf of the barley harvest and to wave it before the Lord [Leviticus 23:11]. That is The Feast of the Firstfruits. And he was to do that on the morrow after the Sabbath which was a picture, a type, of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus – the firstfruits of all of them who sleep, and of all of us who shall die, sleep in Jesus, if He delays His coming [1 Corinthians 15:23].
And the Feast of the Firstfruits was a type, an adumbration, of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, who was raised on the first day of the week [Matthew 28:1-7] – "on the morrow after the Sabbath." And He is the pledge of all of the harvest that is yet to come. He is the firstfruits of the great fields of ripening grain.
You puttin’ that down? This is God’s Book. All right, we just gettin’ started.
That’s the third feast, now the fourth one. The fourth feast is The Feast of Pentecost. Here in the sixteenth verse: "After seven sabbaths, forty-nine days, then ye shall number fifty days, the fiftieth day" [from Leviticus 23:16] and they called that long period the Feast of Weeks, seven weeks, seven Sabbaths. Then the fiftieth day – – and that’s where you get the word "Pentecost," fiftieth, the fiftieth day – – that is the feast of the ingathering. It marked the great ingathering of the wheat harvest. It’d be toward, oh, June – sometime in June. "And ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves . . . and they shall be baked with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the Lord" [Leviticus 23:17].
All right, this is what the Lord said. Now after the Feast of the Firstfruits – first Passover sacrifice, Christ; then the Feast of Unleavened Bread immediately begins. That’s the pilgrimage, the holy walk of the Christian; then the Feast of the Firstfruits which is the resurrection of our Lord; then fifty days and Pentecost.
And on Pentecost, the great ingathering of the wheat harvest, they were to bake two loaves made out of the grain that was just harvest [Leviticus 23:16-17]. It was to be of the first grain of the new harvest [Leviticus 23:16]. And they were to bake it with leaven [Leviticus 23:17], and make two loaves of it, and to go before the Lord in the temple and to wave those two loaves before the Lord Jesus Christ, before God in heaven, before the great Almighty [Leviticus 23:20]: the two loaves baked with leaven.
Now what does that mean? That was a picture of the great dispensation of this age, of this time, of this community, of this church. And the two loaves represent the two great bodies that God looks upon in this world: the Jew and the Gentile. And both of them are now to be presented to the Lord. That’s this age, this dispensation, this church era. Both of them are to be waved before the Lord, to be presented to the Lord, and they are baked with leaven [Leviticus 23:17, 19].
What did I tell you that leaven always signified? Leaven in the Bible is always a type of evil. So those two loaves are baked with leaven and are presented before the Lord. And that means that in the church – this age, this day, this dispensation – evil is still in us. Iniquity is still among us. You never escape it. It’s in the church. It’s in you. The only difference between you and a sinner outside of this church is this: that you are a sinner saved by grace, and he is a sinner outside of the love and covenant mercy of God. But we’re still sinners all of us [Romans 3:23]. And sin is still in us. And the principle of sin still works in us [Romans 7:14-24]. That is the church.
Now Jesus had a great deal to say about that when He spake the parables of the Kingdom in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew. He said: "The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman hid in three measures of meal, and it grew, and it grew, and it grew until all of it was leaven" [Matthew 13:33]. And He said: "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a mustard seed . . . that grew and grew and grew, and finally the birds of the heavens came and roosted in its branches" [Matthew 13:31-32].
That is a picture of the growth of the church and of the kingdom of heaven here in the world. As it grows, as it grows, it gets filled with all kinds of evil and iniquity, gets filled with all kinds of doctrines that are false and derogatory [Acts 20:29-32]. As the thing grows and grows, every vile and dirty and unclean bird comes and roosts in its branches. Why there’s not any story of iniquity that is more vile and scandalous in this earth than the story of the Christian church, so called, as you read it in the books of history. That’s what God said. That doesn’t surprise the Lord.
As the church grew – as it conquered Rome, as it conquered Germany, as it conquered England, as it conquered France and Spain – as the church grew, as the kingdom of heaven grew, it was filled with every dirty and unclean bird. Every foul thing came to roost in its branches. And that’s what God said: "You are to bake those two loaves with leaven" [Leviticus 23:17] because there still will be iniquity and uncleanness on the inside of God’s church, on the inside of Christendom, the kingdom of heaven.
Now we’ve got to go on. Then there’s a long period of time. After Pentecost, which represents the coming of the Holy Spirit and the putting together into one great body the Jew and the Gentile – the offering of the two loaves baked with leaven before the Lord – then you have a long period of time. You have four months until you come down here to the twenty-fourth verse, and we begin again with the last three feasts.
Those feasts are grouped into four and three, and they are separated by a long interval. The first four are way up there in the spring. Passover, Unleavened Bread, the Firstfruits, and Pentecost – they’re over here in the spring. Then four months pass and then at the end, in the early fall, are the last three feasts [Leviticus 23:24-43] – and they come immediately together, and there’s a long interval between.
Now what does that stand for? What does that adumbrate? That adumbrates the long period of time of this day, of this age, of this spirit of grace, of this church, of this ministration of the Holy Ghost. Between the last feast now, Pentecost, and the feast that is yet to come is a long period of time: four months.
Then the last three immediately come together. Now look at them. First is the Feast of Trumpets [Leviticus 23:23-25] on the first day of Tishri, the seventh month. Then on the tenth day of that month is the Atonement [Leviticus 23:26-32], and on the fifteenth day of that month is the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles [Leviticus 23:33-43]. Now you have those three over here together. Now what does that mean? All right, this is what that means.
The Feast of the Trumpets: on the first day of the seventh month [Leviticus 23:24] – – now what’d I tell you that seven meant? Seven means the totality: it means the fullness, the plentitude, the all of it. Now on the first day of the seventh month, the trumpets shall sound – the Feast of the Trumpets.
There were two trumpets in the tenth chapter of the Book of Numbers described [Numbers 10:1-10]: the blowing of the first trumpet was the calling of the assembly, and the blowing of the second trumpet was the marching order to go out and journey before the Lord.
All right, at the end, at the end – after that period of time, however long it shall be – at the end time, then comes the blowing of the trumpets. That is the Jewish New Year today, we know it as, but it was the feast of the blowing of the trumpets. And what does that mean?
Well, when you turn over here – when you turn over here to God’s Book, in the first Thessalonian letter and the fourth chapter and the sixteenth verse, it says:
For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with a voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God –
and with the trump of God –
and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the air . . .
[1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]
The trump of God, the voice of the archangel.
Now, look once again. In the fifteenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter, and the fifty-first, fifty-second verses:
Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed.
[1 Corinthians 15:51-52]
After this period of time, this long period of time, then begins again the last three feasts of the Lord, and it begins with the blowing of the trumpets.
Now these feasts are Jewish feasts, and Israel is God’s child. I’ve just read of those two trumpets. In Thessalonians and in First Corinthians 15, at the blowing of the trumpet, at the sound of the last trump, the dead in Christ shall rise first; but God’s not done with those chosen people. There’s something else.
Listen to the Word of the Lord in the twenty-fourth chapter of the book of Matthew: "For as the lightning . . . " [Matthew 24:27]. Here’s the great public coming of the Lord before the world. He comes first secretly, clandestinely, furtively, calling out His people. He’s coming as a thief in the night to steal out of the world the pearl of price – you [Matthew 13:45-45]. He paid his life for you [Romans 5:8]. He’s coming to get that treasure hid in a field [Matthew 13:44]. That’s the Lord Jesus Christ loving you. First He’s coming secretly, clandestinely: "Two shall be in a bed asleep, one shall be taken and the other left" [Matthew 24:40].
He’s coming at the sound of the trump, and those dead are to hear it – the dead in Christ are to hear it – then we shall all be changed and rise to meet them [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:52]. But God’s not done. There’s coming, after a period of seven years, there’s coming the Lord openly, publicly. Then He says here, in the [twenty-fourth] chapter of the Matthew: "For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth unto the west; so the coming of the Son of Man" [Matthew 24:27] – openly, publicly before the world.
"And immediately after the tribulation" – after the tribulation, the great tribulation – "After the tribulation of those days," then these awful things and terrible judgments come:
The sun darkened, the moon not give her light, the stars fall, the powers of heaven shaken:
Then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven: and they that are the tribes of the earth shall mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in power . . .
And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet –
with a great sound of a trumpet –
and shall gather His chosen, His elect, from the four winds . . .
Now learn a parable of the fig tree . . .
And a fig tree is a sign of Israel. "Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled [Matthew 24:34]. What does He mean there? "This generation" – this genus, this kind, this race, these Jewish people, My chosen – they shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled.
"Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My word shall not pass away" [Matthew 24:35]. He said, "That Jew’s going to be here till I come again. That race of Israel, My people, are going to be here in this world until that last and final hour when I gather them together from the four winds of the earth." But what’s going to happen?
Now the next is the Feast of the Atonement, the great Day of Atonement – Yom Kippur they call it today – the Feast of the Atonement [Leviticus 23:26-32]. Now what does that signify?
Turn over here to the Book of Zechariah and we read first in the third chapter and the ninth verse, then the thirteenth chapter and the first verse, and then in the fourteenth chapter. And now look: "And in that day, I will remove the iniquity of the land of Israel in one day" [Zechariah 3:9] – in one day. Now listen again: "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness" [Zechariah 13:1] – the Day of Atonement.
And I will pour out upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication: and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son.
And one shall say unto Him, "What are these wounds in thine hands?" Then He shall answer, "Those with which I was wounded in the house of My friends."
And the day comes and His feet shall stand upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem . . .
And the Lord God shall come . . .
And it shall come to pass that at evening time it will be light.
And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them to the former sea, half to the hinder sea.
And the Lord shall be king over all the earth.
[Zechariah 14:4-5, 7-9]
What does the Day of Atonement signify? They held that Day of Atonement feast in this church one time. Do you remember it? The most effectively I’ve ever seen this church decorated in my life was when that synagogue, Rabbi Lefkowitz was the rabbi of it at the time, what’s the name of it? Temple Emmanuel. They packed this auditorium all day long, twenty-four hours, from sunset to sunset. It was the great Day of the Atonement of the Lord. What does that signify?
That signifies, according to the prophecies of God, that some of these days, the Lord Jesus Christ returning visibly and openly with His people gathered together in unbelief in the land of Palestine and in Jerusalem. The Lord Jesus Christ shall appear, and in that day, God will open a fountain for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.
Now, the last, and I just hasten a sentence. The last, the seventh feast, is the Feast of Tabernacles [Leviticus 23:33-43], and it’s to last for seven days [Leviticus 23:41]. What’d I tell you seven meant in the Bible? Seven is the number for the totality. Seven is the number for the entity. It’s the plentitude. It’s the whole of the thing.
And the Feast of Tabernacles, they couldn’t observe it out in the wilderness, out in the journey. The Feast of Tabernacles was to be observed in the land of Canaan where the people come to rest [Leviticus 23:39], and there they’re dwelling, every man under his own vine, and under his own fig tree [Zechariah 3:10].
And lest they forget the pilgrimage and the trials and the tribulations of the way, lest they forget they’re now at rest, they’re in Cana’s fair and happy land, they’re at home with the Lord – now lest they forget, they are to dwell in booths made out of branches, arbors, to remind them of the days of the pilgrimage when they went through the trials and sorrows and heartaches of the journey out of bondage into the great deliverance of the Promised Land [Leviticus 23:42-43].
And the Feast of Tabernacles is a type of that final, millennial, great, and eternal rest when we are with the Lord in our promised home – we have received our inheritance from God. And this is a reminder of the stones and the heat and the labor of the pilgrimage of the way. And that’s what we’re going to do in glory. When we get up there in that final rest, we’re going to sit down, and we’re going to have convocations and meetings, and we’re going to talk together about the toils of the way, and the sorrows of the pilgrimage, and how God delivered us out of them all.
Now let’s stand and sing one stanza of our hymn. What? Number 313, and while we sing it, somebody give his heart to the Lord or come into the church. While we make this appeal, you come and stand by me – 313.