Are the annual holy days of Israel fulfilled by Christ?

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We’ve just finished the Jewish Sukkot, aka Feast of Tabernacles, and Shemini Atzeret, aka the Last Great Day or the Eighth Day. Some Christians say we should observe the Holy Days instructed in the Old Testament. Some say they pointed to Christ and were fulfilled by Christ.

Matt 11:13 (KJV throughout) – For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.

Luke 16:16 – The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.

Sukka in New Hampshire

Sukka in New Hampshire. Some modern Christians and semi-Christians do this.

Above we see that the law and the prophets looked forward to Christ. Even the law. “… the law prophesied until John“. That was John the Baptist. From Jesus onward, we are under a new covenant with a new law. Note the word “all” in Matt 11:13. All of it pointed to Christ. That must include those parts of it that explain and command the Old Testament holy days.

John 17:4 – I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.

John 19:30a – When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished. …

The law and prophets of the Old Testament pointed to Christ. All were fulfilled in him. And then he said, “It is finished.

It is not surprising, therefore, that we can expect to find “all” things that pointed to Christ, such as the Old Testament holy days, finding a greater meaning in his life and what he gave us.

Colossians 2:16-17 states:

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

I have discussed this passage at length in other posts. See here:

In short, the passage lists the Old Testament holy days in order of frequency, as is common in the Bible, namely annual, monthly, and weekly. For those who think Paul meant annual, monthly, and more annual days, see the 2nd and 3rd of the three links above. The Greek term used by Paul was heorte (εορτη), which is used in Leviticus 23 and Numbers 28-29 to encompass all these days, not just some.

Note 1: the three feasts marked with *** below are the three annual pilgrimage festivals (Exodus 23).
Note 2: The dates given above are the current dates used in Israel, but some Jewish and Christian groups use other dates.

The Spring Feasts

The spring feasts – Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Pentecost – show us the atonement, freedom from sin, and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.

The Sacrificial Lamb - Josefa de Ayala, ca 1670

The Sacrificial Lamb – Josefa de Ayala, ca 1670

Passover (Pesach)

Biblical reference: Exodus 12; Lev 23:5-14; Num 28:16-25
Hebrew calendar dates: 15 Nisan (evening before, 14 Nisan)

Fulfillment: Matt 26:1-2; 1 Cor 5:6-8

Jesus was our Passover lamb, and died when the other Passover lambs were slaughtered at the temple. Jesus then spent Passover in the tomb.

Unleavened Bread (Mazzot, also called Passover/Pesach)***

Biblical reference: Lev 23:5-14; Num 28:16-25
Hebrew calendar dates: 15-22 Nisan

Fulfillment: 1 Cor 5:6-8; John 6:35; Matt 26:26-28

Just as Israel was freed from the slavery in Egypt, so we were freed from slavery to sin by Jesus. The leaven of the Egyptians was put out of the dwellings of the Israelites, just as the leaven of sin must be put out of our lives. Jesus is our true bread, the bread of life. His blood was the blood of the New Covenant.

First Fruits (Sefirat Ha’omer)

Biblical reference: Lev 23:9-14
Hebrew calendar dates: 16 Nisan

Fulfillment: 1 Cor 15:20

On the day after Passover, the Jews offered the first fruits of the barley harvest to God. On that same day, Jesus rose from the dead as the first fruit of God’s kingdom.

The sending of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles

The sending of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles

Pentecost (Shavuot)***

Biblical reference: Lev 23:15-22; Num 28:26-30
Hebrew calendar dates: 6 Sivan

Fulfillment: Acts 2

The original law of the Old Covenant, the 10 commandments, was given on the original day of Pentecost. In a striking parallel, the Holy Spirit descended on the Church on the day of Pentecost 50 days (counting inclusively: Pentecost means to count 50 days) after Jesus rose from the dead.

Up to here most Christians agree that Christ fulfilled these annual holy days. They pointed to him, and their symbolism was fulfilled by him. Those that follow are considered fulfilled by most Christians, but a few disagree – mostly those who elevate some version of a divine calendar to proportions that overwhelm the true essence of Christianity, contradicting the Bible in the process (e.g. Adventists, Armstrongism).

The Autumn Feasts

The spring feasts – Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Pentecost – showed us the atonement, freedom from sin, and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.

In the same manner, the autumn feasts show us the same things in a different way. Trumpets announces the beginning of it all, Atonement shows us, well, the atonement, and Tabernacles shows us the Holy Spirit poured out on us and living within us.

Festival of Trumpets

Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah)

Biblical reference: Lev 23:23-25; Num 29:1-6
Hebrew calendar dates: 1 Tishri

Fulfillment: John the Baptist, prophesied in Isaiah 40, announced the coming of Christ to Israel.

John 1:23 – He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.

Some also find fulfillment in the 70 AD destruction of the temple, and others see in it a fulfillment of both advents of Christ – the first, with the incarnation, and the future return.

Atonement (Yom Kippur)

Biblical reference: Lev 23:26-32; Num 29:6-11
Hebrew calendar dates: 10 Tishri

Fulfillment: Jesus Christ was our atonement sacrifice.

Romans 5:11 – And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

This is the Autumn parallel of the Passover, when Jesus was our atoning sacrifice. No future fulfillment to be repeated. The Epistle to the Hebrews shows that this was complete after Jesus ascended into heaven (contrary to the stuff Adventists believe about 1844). While Adventists and others may believe that Satan bore our sins, Christians believe the scapegoat (as well as the sacrificed goat) symbolised Jesus, thus making him a fulfillment of the Day of Atonement.

Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot)***

Pool of Siloam

Pool of Siloam

Biblical reference: Lev 23:33-36; Num 29:12-34
Hebrew calendar dates: 15-21 Tishri

Fulfillment: Pentecost (Acts 2); 1 Cor 3:16, John 7; John 14:23

Israel lived in tabernacles during this time, looking back on the Exodus (Lev 23:42-43). This is the Autumn version of Israel leaving Egypt and spending 40 years on temporary dwellings as they wandered through the wilderness.

Some say that Jesus didn’t fulfill this feast because he didn’t attend, and said his time had not yet come (John 7:6). They claim that his time having not yet come means that it remains unfulfilled. However, Jesus did in fact go to the feast, initially in secret, and then preached there, and the contents of his sermon link him explicitly to the Feast of Tabernacles. His time had not yet come – he was not to be a sacrifice at Atonement the week before, or during Tabernacles. Passover was coming, and that would be his time.

John 14:23 – Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

In addition to this, instead of us wandering through the world trying to find our way by the law, we now find rest in Christ and the Holy Spirit dwells within us, instead of us dwelling in temporary dwellings awaiting the Messiah, Jesus. The daily water libation (see below) typified the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.

Last Great Day (the 8th Day, Shemini Atzeret)

Biblical reference: Lev 23:39-43; Num 29:35-38
Hebrew calendar dates: 22 Tishri

Fulfillment: Jesus Christ is the giver of the water of life.

This day is considered by some to be part of the Feast of Tabernacles, and by others to be a separate event. The Bible calls it the last day or eighth day of the feast. Nonetheless, it has particular meaning.

One of the prominent rituals that took place during Tabernacles, reaching a peak on the last great (8th) day of the feast with the Great Hosannah, was the water libation, during which water from the pool of Siloam was poured onto the altar in the temple.

On this day, Jesus made a remarkable statement, proving that he fulfilled this feast:

John 7: 37-39 – In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

Jesus was the source of the water poured out on us, the Holy Spirit. This day, therefore, is the Autumn parallel of Pentecost.

Clearly all the Old Testament holy days pointed to Christ – our Passover lamb sacrificed to atone for our sins, the bread of life, the water of life.

There is no further need for a temple on earth or in heaven, and all these holy days are of little value if the intent is to try to fulfill them further in the context of Christ and the temple. The only temple in heaven is Jesus Christ our Lord and our God.

Rev 21:22-25 – And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.

There awaits the final judgement, the restoration of all things to God. But the context is now Christ.

Further reading:

Elsewhere on the interweb:

This blog:

Catholic Encyclopedia:

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