Chapter VII, The Parenthetical Period In Israel's Ecclesiastical Year

Before going on to examine the parenthetical part of the Epistle to the Romans which deals with God’s past, present and future ways with Israel, there is another Old Testament Scripture to which we should turn our attention for further corroboration of the undisclosed present period which we have been considering.

In the twenty-third chapter of the book of Leviticus we have the feasts or “set times” of Jehovah. This chapter has well been called Israel’s ecclesiastical year, using the term “ecclesiastical” in the sense in which it is often used today as designating the special festivals of the professing Church. So far as Christians are concerned, the Word of God does not indicate any such festivals for their observance, and the more we make of them the more we are likely to come under the censure of the Apostle to the Gentiles as set forth in the Epistle to the Galatians: “Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain” (Galatians 4:10-11).

But with Israel it was otherwise. In the legal dispensation God Himself appointed certain weekly and annual festivals which were to be faithfully observed during all that dispensation, and each of which had a typical significance. In the third verse of this twenty- third chapter of Leviticus we have the “sabbath of rest,” which is called a “holy convocation,” in which no work was to be done. This, of course, was the weekly “set time” and was observed with a double purpose. First, it was a recognition of Jehovah’s creation rest as indicated in Exodus 20, verses 8 to 11:

“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11).

Then in Deuteronomy 5, where we have the reiteration of the Ten Commandments, another reason is given for the observance of the Sabbath. We read in verse 15: “And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.” This second reason makes one thing very definite, namely, that the Ten Commandments as such were never given to the Gentiles but solely to Israel, the covenant people. Of course, when the Gentiles became familiar with them, it was their responsibility to maintain the high moral standards there set forth, but nowhere are we told that the Sabbath was a sign of God’s covenant with the nations.

It had both a backward and a forward aspect. Looking forward, it typified the rest that remains for the people of God, a Sabbath Rest which will be enjoyed eternally by all who know Christ as Saviour, as indicated in Hebrews 4, verses 4 to 9.

The reason that the Sabbath occupies the first place in this list of the feasts of Jehovah is because God’s first thought for mankind is His last. He has ever had before Him the time when in the new heavens and the new earth He will dwell with His people in a condition of perfection, after all the varied experiences through which men shall pass during their sojourn in this world.

In verse 4 we read: “These are the feasts of the Lord, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons.” The word feasts here is somewhat misleading. We think of a feast as a time of merriment and enjoyment, possibly even as an occasion when we regale ourselves with toothsome viands; but no such thought is necessarily connected with the word used here. It would be better to translate it “set times” or “appointed seasons,” because some of these so-called feasts were actually fasts, when the people were to refrain from food and drink as they meditated upon their sins and transgressions. They were, however, definite, appointed seasons to be observed from year to year.

As we read through the chapter, we notice that three of these “set times” were to be observed in the spring of the year, and all of these were types of great events which have already had a glorious fulfillment. First we are told:

“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. In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein” (Lev. 23:5-8).

The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were intimately connected. We do not have to guess at the meaning of either for when we turn to I Corinthians 5, verses 6 to 8, we read:

“Your glorying is not good. 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 old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (I Cor. 5:6-8).

The Passover, then, typified the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s unblemished, spotless Lamb who gave Himself for us in order that divine judgment might never fall upon us. To Israel in Egypt, in connection with the first Passover and the sprinkling of blood, Jehovah said: “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” This points to the cross of Christ, and is the great truth that gives rest to every believing heart.

The fourteenth day of the first month was in the early spring, for Israel’s sacred year began at that time. The month Abib, or “Green Ears,” answers, generally speaking, to the last part of our March and the first half of April. It was then that the Passover was to be observed, and when we come to the New Testament we find that our Lord Jesus Christ observed this feast Himself with His disciples on the first evening of the fourteenth of Abib, and in the morning of the same day He was nailed upon the cross, and in the afternoon He died as the great Paschal Lamb. The Jewish day was from sunset to sunset, and the Passover was to be slain between the two evenings, as we are told in Exodus 12; so our Lord ate the Passover and died as the Paschal Lamb between the two evenings. Thus the type was completely fulfilled.

Now we who have put our trust in Him are called to purge away all leaven, and leaven is ever in Scripture a type of evil. Our Lord warned His disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy and self-righteousness; of the leaven of the Sadducees, which is false doctrine; and of the leaven of Herod, which is worldliness and political corruption. And in the passage already referred to in First Corinthians, we read of the leaven of malice and wickedness. In Galatians and in First Corinthians, Paul uses the expression, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” In the one case he refers to false doctrine which, if not checked, permeates the mass, and in the other to immorality which, if not judged in the light of the cross of Christ, will have a most devastating effect upon those who are inclined to be led astray. It is for us, therefore, as the redeemed of the Lord, redeemed not with corruptible things such as silver and gold but with the precious blood of Christ, to be careful to put all leaven out of our lives and so to walk before God in holiness and truth. This is to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread according to the divine appointment for our dispensation.

We come next to the Feast of Firstfruits. In verses 9 to 14 we read:

“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf and the lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt-offering unto the Lord. And the meat-offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the Lord for a sweet savour: and the drink-offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin. And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings” (Leviticus 23:9-14).

Again we are not left to our own imagination when we ask: “What is the meaning of this feast?” For when we turn to First Corinthians 15, that great resurrection chapter in which the Apostle is emphasizing the importance of the truth of Christ’s having been raised from the dead, we see that in verse 20 he says: “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” Then again in verses 22 and 23:

“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (I Corinthians 15:22-23).

The presentation of the firstfruits, then, typified the rising of Christ from the dead and His acceptance by God the Father after He had completed the work upon which our redemption rests.

And notice in verse 11 of our chapter, it was on the morrow after the Sabbath that the priest was to present the firstfruits before God. Now remember that our Lord Jesus Christ died on Passover Day and was raised again at the beginning of the first day of the week following. We can see how God here pictures the setting aside of the Sabbath of the Law and the bringing in of what the Apostle John calls, in Revelation 1, “the Lord’s day.” From Psalm 118, we infer that the Spirit of God puts special honor upon this day because of the glorious event which was then to take place. In verse 22 we have the rejection of Christ involving His crucifixion: “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.” His resurrection and the sanctity of the new day are implied in verses 23 and 24: “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

Throughout the last Sabbath of the Jews which God ever recognized, no one on earth could possibly know whether redemption, was a success or not. The body of the Lord Jesus Christ after His death upon the cross lay in Joseph’s new tomb. Had He not come forth in resurrection on the first day of the week, all His declarations in regard to the great work He came to do would have been proved false. It was His resurrection which made it manifest that He was indeed the promised Saviour of mankind. He was delivered up to death for our offences and was raised again for our justification. Christ having completed the work that saves, God bore witness to His delight in His Son and His satisfaction in the work he had accomplished by raising Him from the dead. The Lord Jesus as the risen One has been accepted of the Father, and all who believe are accepted in Him.

There is much more in this section that we could dwell upon, but I pass over it now because my chief object is to show how what we have here links up with what we have already been considering.

In the next section we have the Feast of Pentecost. Note verses 15 to 22:

“And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave-offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat-offering unto the Lord. Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave-loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven, they are the firstfruits unto the Lord. And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt-offering unto the Lord, with their meat-offering, and their drink-offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the Lord. Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin-offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace-offerings. And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits for a wave-offering before the Lord, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the Lord for the priest. And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations. And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 23:15-22).

This feast took place fifty days after that of the first-fruits. The word “pentecost,” of course, indicates this, and we are told definitely that the Israelites were to count from the morrow after the Sabbath when they brought the sheaf of the wave offering until seven Sabbaths had passed. Then upon the morrow after the seventh Sabbath they were to bring a new meal offering unto the Lord. This is the better translation here. We generally think of meat as flesh, but when the Authorized Version was translated, the word still had its original meaning of food, so that this was the food offering and was composed of meal. Two wave loaves were to be presented before the Lord. Unlike the ordinary meal offering, which typified our Lord Jesus Christ and in which there was to be no leaven, these wave loaves were to be baked with leaven, and they are called also “first-fruits unto the Lord.” It is clear, then, that they typify not Christ Himself but believers in Christ in whom there is a sinful nature (as there was not in Him), but that nature has been judged in the light of the cross of Christ and therefore the leaven is conceived of as baked. They represent, then, redeemed sinners who have been born of God, even as we read in James 1, verse 18: “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”

Now, we have the fulfillment of this feast on the day of Pentecost as recorded in the second chapter of the book of Acts. It was then that our Lord baptized believers by the Holy Spirit, and this baptism, we are told in First Corinthians 12, verse 13, formed the one body which is the Church of this dispensation. It is well to notice the full statement in First Corinthians:

“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:12-13).

The two loaves undoubtedly picture the two groups—Jew and Gentile. Both alike were sinners; both had to judge their sins in the light of the cross; both are accepted by God in all the value of the work of His Son. There is no intimation here, however, that both would form one body, nor was that made known on the day of Pentecost, but through the Apostle Paul, as the chosen vessel of testimony to the Gentiles, this truth was later made known as the dispensation progressed.

And now we come to something of intense interest for those who have followed me in this series of studies thus far. These three feasts, which all have to do with the blessing of the people of God in this age, all took place in the spring of the year. There were no more such “set times” until the seventh month, which would answer to our September-October, and then there were three more feasts following one another in quick succession and intimately linked together. But all of them have to do particularly with God’s future dealings with the nation of Israel, so that we have a period of some five months in which there were no special “set times” indicated. This long period fits in perfectly with the parenthesis in God’s prophetic plan which we have seen must be taken into account in so many places if we are to rightly apprehend what God is doing now.

When the summer was over and the close of the year had come, God commanded His people to observe the Feast of Trumpets. Notice verses 23 to 25. This ordinance of the blowing of trumpets on the first day of the seventh month is observed by the Jews today for the ushering in of the new civil year as distinguished from the ecclesiastical year. It is called the Feast of Rosh-Hashana. On this day the trumpets are blown, indicating the ushering in of a new period of time. This has to do entirely with Israel. It signifies the blowing of the great trumpet when God’s earthly people who have wandered from Him for so long will be called back to Himself and to their land to enter upon Millennial blessedness. Many Scriptures refer to this, a few of which we will mention here:

“All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth, see ye, when he lifteth up an ensign on the mountains; and when he bloweth a trumpet, hear ye. For so the Lord said unto me, I will take my rest, and I will consider in my dwelling place like a clear heat upon herbs, and like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest. For afore the harvest, when the bud is perfect, and the sour grape is ripening in the flower, he shall both cut off the sprigs with pruning hooks, and take away and cut down the branches. They shall be left together unto the fowls of the mountains, and to the beasts of the earth: and the fowls shall summer upon them, and all the beasts of the earth shall winter upon them. In that time shall the present be brought unto the Lord of hosts of a people scattered and peeled, and from a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden under foot, whose land the rivers have spoiled, to the place of the name of the Lord of hosts, the mount Zion” (Isaiah 18:3-7).

This passage clearly refers to the call which will go out from the Lord after the Church Age is past, summoning His scattered people Israel to return to Himself and to their inheritance. Again in Isaiah 27:12-13 we read:

“And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall beat off from the channel of the river unto the stream of Egypt, and ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem.”

Surely these words need no explanation. They are absolutely clear and tell us in no uncertain way that the blowing of the trumpet has to do with Israel’s return.

In the second chapter of Joel, verses 1 and 2, we see that when this trumpet is blown, the people of Israel will be in the midst of great tribulation and distress such as they have never previously known. The attempt has often been made by various interpreters of prophecy to connect the Feast of Trumpets with the Rapture of the Church because at that time we are told the Lord will descend from heaven, “. . . with the trump of God,” but the context here shows us that the Feast of Trumpets does not in any sense typify anything connected with the heavenly calling, but has to do with the ingathering of Israel to their earthly inheritance. With this agree the words of our Lord which we noticed in a previous study, where He declared that at His Second Coming He would send forth His angels with a sound of a trumpet and gather together His elect from the four quarters of the earth. This makes the meaning of the Feast of Trumpets crystal clear and shows its direct application to the regathering of Israel.

If the Feast of Trumpets had to do with the Rapture of the Church, there would be no place for that which follows in Leviticus 23 because immediately afterwards we have the second “set time” in this latter series for Israel—the great Day of Atonement, when Israel shall recognize in the Lord Jesus Christ the One who made atonement for their sins but whom up to that time they will not have known. Let us read carefully verses 26 through 32:

“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord. And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the Lord your God. For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people. And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people. Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath” (Leviticus 23:26-32).

These verses can have no reference to the Church as such for already we have seen set forth in the Passover the same truth which is now brought before us here, but the great point of the type is that inasmuch as Israel failed to apprehend the meaning of the Passover, it will not be until the coming day of tribulation when they are in distress and sorrow that they will realize the fact that the Saviour whom their fathers rejected was the One who actually made atonement for their sins. This great Day of Atonement as observed by Israel in the latter day is set forth in Zechariah 12, verses 10 to 14:

“And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadad-rimmon in the valley of Megiddon. And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart; all the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart.”

In that day when Israel shall realize how terribly they have blundered in refusing the Lord Jesus Christ when He came in lowly grace, they will bow before God in bitterness of soul and confess their sin. In the first verse of chapter 13 we are told the result:

“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” (Zech. 13:1).

In other words, Israel’s cleansing will come when in spirit they reach the true Day of Atonement and recognize the once rejected Jesus as their Saviour and Lord. Then they will cry, in the words of Isaiah 53, “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” That entire wonderful chapter will open up to them in a marvelous way as the Holy Spirit reveals to them their sin and their Saviour.

One feast remains ere the year is closed—the Feast of Tabernacles or of Ingathering. This was for Israel the happiest festival of all the year. It was the time when they dwelt in booths as a reminder of the tents of the wilderness and when they all rejoiced together in the good things God had given them through the vintage and the harvest. We have quoted before and so it will be well to quote again here the actual instruction given in this chapter in Leviticus:

“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the Lord, On the first day shall be an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord: it is a solemn assembly; and ye shall do no servile work therein. These are the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord, a burnt-offering, and a meat-offering, a sacrifice, and drink-offerings, every thing upon his day: beside the sabbaths of the Lord, and beside your gifts, and beside all your vows, and beside all your freewill-offerings, which ye give unto the Lord. Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the Lord seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath. And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. And ye shall keep it a feast unto the Lord seven days in the year. It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month. Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths: that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. And Moses declared unto the children of Israel the feasts of the Lord” (Leviticus 23:33-44).

Surely anyone familiar with the Word of God can see in this the picture of that wonderful day when the Lord Jesus shall return in power and glory, and His earthly people will be brought into blessing here in the world and will dwell beneath their own vine and fig tree, rejoicing in the goodness of the Lord. Then the prophecy of Zechariah will have its perfect fulfillment. The Feast of Tabernacles and the deliverance of the people are identical. This is set forth clearly in Zechariah 14, verses 16 to 21:

“And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the Lord will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the Lord’s house shall be like the bowls before the altar. Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord of hosts: and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein: and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts.”

And so the wonderful story comes to an end, and Israel, for so long the nation of the wandering foot, will at last have found their rest in subjection to and glad recognition of the Lord Jesus Christ who was not recognized by them when He came to fulfill the type of the Passover and the firstfruits, but who in that day will be manifested to them as the One who made atonement for their sins upon the cross and under whose righteous rule they shall find rest after all the sorrows and trials they have endured throughout the centuries since they cried, “Away with Him, away with Him; crucify Him, crucify Him.”

The break between the two sets of feasts is clear and definite, and is corroborative evidence that our interpretation of the parenthesis in Daniel 9 is the very truth of God in regard to His prophetic dealings with Israel and the world.