Perhaps the clearest Old Testament foreshadowing of Jesus is the Passover lamb, which was sacrificed as a symbolic substitute for the Israelites’ sin, delivering them from death and freeing them to begin their journey to the Promised Land (Ex. 12:1–28). So too Jesus, the lamb of God, was slain to ransom us (1 Cor. 5:7; Rev. 5:9, 12). By his blood, he freed a people from the bondage of sin and death to set out for the promised land of eternal life.
But Passover is only one of seven Jewish feasts God ordained for his people, and we can see glimpses of Jesus in the others as well.
Christians are not obligated to keep the Old Testament feasts. But as we seek to understand their significance and fulfillment in Christ, these feasts—including the three fall feasts (the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles)—invite us to remember and celebrate Jesus’s fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures (Matt. 5:17). They also provide opportunities to share him with others, especially our Jewish friends who do not yet recognize him as Lord.
1. Feast of Trumpets (starts September 19, 2020)
The Feast of Trumpets, or Rosh Hashanah, starts at sundown on September 19, 2020 (Lev. 23:23–25; Num. 29:1–6). Because our Gregorian calendar (based on the sun) is different from the Jewish calendar (based on the moon and sun), this feast actually marks the start or “head” of the Jewish new year. On this day, a trumpet or shofar was sounded to call people to repentance and prepare them for God’s great judgment.
Just as God’s voice sounded like a trumpet to the Israelites on Mt. Sinai (Heb. 12:18–19), so also the voice of Jesus, the word of God himself (John 1:1), will sound like a trumpet as he returns to his people (Rev. 1:10; 4:1). Christ will descend from heaven, angels will gather his elect, the dead will be raised imperishable, the final battle will begin, and we will all be changed (Matt. 24:31; 1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:16). Like the start of a new year, this will usher in the new eternal age.
2. Day of Atonement (starts September 28, 2020)
Ten days after the Feast of Trumpets, beginning at sundown on September 28, 2020, is the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur (Lev. 23:26–32; Num. 29:7–11). This was a day for God’s people to confess sins, repent, make atonement, and seek forgiveness.
On this day, a priest would enter the most holy place, sprinkle blood from one goat on the altar to atone for sins, and symbolically transfer the people’s sins onto a scapegoat before releasing it into the wilderness to die. Jews consider this the most somber and holy day of the year, and many believe it is when God seals his judgments on people in the book of life.
Jews consider this the most somber and holy day of the year, and many believe it is when God seals his judgments on people in the book of life.
Christians now see that this pointed ahead to the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ, which atones for the sins of the world—Jews and Gentiles alike (Rom. 3:25; 1 John 2:2). As our great high priest, he entered the most holy place by his own blood, making a way for us to approach God’s throne of grace (Heb. 4:14–16). Christ is also represented by the scapegoat, as he took on our sins and was led out of the city to die (Heb. 13:12).
Our final redemption is purchased not by man, but by God himself; accomplished not by our works, but by grace through faith in Christ—the true propitiation for sin (Rom. 3:23–25). After his return at the sound of the trumpet and a period of waiting, we too will see God’s final judgment. And as followers of the long-awaited Jesus Christ, we can be confident that our names will never be blotted from the book of life (Rev. 3:5).
3. Feast of Tabernacles (starts October 3, 2020)
The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot or the Feast of Booths/Ingathering) begins at sundown on October 3, 2020 (Lev. 23:33–43; Num. 29:12–38), coinciding with the final harvest of the year. This joyful week celebrates God’s provision as the Israelites lived in makeshift dwellings in the wilderness, whether with manna from heaven or water from the rock.
On the seventh day of the feast, Jesus—God “tabernacling” among us (John 1:14)—declared that streams of living water would flow from the hearts of all who trust him (John 7:37–38). We now see that Jesus is the rock (1 Pet. 2:4–5), the living water (John 4:10), and the bread of life (John 6:31–35). He has been God’s provision for our deepest needs from the start. As the Israelites wandered through the wilderness between salvation at the exodus and entering the Promised Land, so we also are sojourners in a foreign land here on earth as we press on toward our eternal home with Christ.
As the Feast of Tabernacles celebrates a final harvest and feast following a trumpet sound and day of atonement, we also believe that after Jesus’s return will come a harvest: the sons of evil will be destroyed, and the righteous in Christ will be gathered into our Father’s kingdom to shine like the sun (Matt. 13:36–43) and feast forever at the marriage supper of the lamb (Rev. 19:6–9).
All Scripture Points to Him
The Holy Spirit alone can soften hearts and open eyes to receive Jesus as the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament. But we can pray to be used in his saving work by taking any opportunities—perhaps even the Jewish fall feasts—to share with others this divine mystery kept secret from the foundation of the world, but now revealed in Christ (Rom. 16:25; Col. 1:26).
It is to him that Moses and all the Old Testament prophets bear witness (Luke 24:27; Acts 10:43), and by his resurrection the promised good news has been fulfilled (Acts 13:32–33). When we fix our eyes on and point others to Jesus, we are filled with even greater awe and deeper faith in this Author of Life (Heb. 12:2; Acts 3:15) who’s been masterfully weaving his story through all time, in all people, over all the earth—and who will do so to the end.