About Prophecy and the Feasts
This article was written quickly, just thoughts thrown together as I prepared to study the relationship between the Hebrew Feasts and Biblical Prophecy.
Prophecy and the Hebrew Feasts
RCW: A first draft of some meditations on the nature of prophecy and how we tend to abuse it. I am just thinking in front of a keyboard…
The practice of observing the calendared events given through Moses in Leviticus 23 has endured for over 3000 years. It has survived despite uncountable wars, changes of government, changes of location, culture and language and the loss of two Temples. It has split into several main traditions, even within Judaism. Christianity was born under the observance of Leviticus 23, and has also developed a variety of meanings that would have been unexpectable at the time of Jesus’ birth. Today, the diversity of observant traditions, the debates over dates and other details, and the enthusiastic embrace of symbolic application make it clear that no single understanding of Leviticus 23 will avoid extensive critical evaluation. My hope is to find an approach that will answer at least one question: Is there a valid way to understand the “Fall Feasts” as prophecy? I will begin by looking for a way of understanding the relationship of Jesus’ death to Passover, and the other related events through Pentecost. Then I hope to apply that understanding to the Fall Feasts and see what happens.
I have already discovered that prophetic interpretation of the feasts is very sloppy. A symbol only has to communicate a part of an idea for it to be embraced as a sign that God Himself has created the association. The appearance of association is then assumed to have some special meaning that we are to proclaim whether we understand it or not. As followers of Jesus, we expect to be ridiculed for our faith, but do wehave to make it so easy?
Symbolism and Prophecy
These are some of the assumptions I make about Biblical prophecy
1. Predictions are not prophecy.
2. The presence of symbolic language is intended to limit the application of a prophecy, not make it universally applicable to every age and situation.
3. A prophecy should have one and only one clear fulfillment.
4. Similarities between different prophecies or historical events should not be considered enough to make an assertion that they are directly related.
5. Prophecies cannot be self-fulfilling.
6. Prophecies cannot interfere with history.
7. Prophecies can be conditional or unconditional.
8. Conditional prophecies have their origin in the present. God is telling us that if we do X He will do Y.
9. Unconditional prophecies have their origin in the future. Jesus is revealing something about the future that will help His people, or at least their leaders, to understand and prepare for unimaginable events. If we can imagine or substantially predict a particular future event, He doesn’t need to reveal it to anyone. But if He intends us to respond in a particular way, then some revelation of God’s will may be required, thus a prophecy will be needed.
Given these assumptions, just what purpose would God have for making a calendar that is a “prophetic timetable?” The 70 weeks of Daniel are unique and do not refer to the Hebrew Calendar, yet they are based on Leviticus 26, which was recorded at the same time and in the same context as Leviticus 23, which is the basis for the Hebrew calendar of annual convocations. The assumption is that God in His complete foreknowledge would not have any problem in giving the Hebrews a calendar that in many ways revealed His long term intentions for them. But the reality is that it appears to have included but concealed His knowledge of the future so that certain events could be better understood after the fact.
Christians have placed so much emphasis on Jesus’ birth, and many detractors have pointed out its apparent co-incidence with the Winter Solstice, a pagan day celebrating the beginning of Winter, the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, the day when the Sun starts moving south again. How did this association happen? Is this an indication of the paganism of the ancient Roman church? Few believe that Dec. 25 is the actual day of Jesus’ birth, but what if it really was at the Winter Solstice? What if it had nothing to do with paganism, but God wanted to create a universal symbolic association that even the gentiles could understand, and chose a well known natural event?
Why not? This is what is being suggested that God did with the Hebrew Calendar, which has little to do with nature, except for its agricultural aspects. I don’t have any interest in trying to make such a case, since no apparent authoritative record of the date of Jesus’ birth exists. And what about Chanukah? Why don’t we see Jesus’ birth as a fulfillment of the miraculous flow of oil for 8 days, maybe coinciding with the 8 days from His birth to His circumcision? See how easy it is to make up stuff like this? Many conversations end like this: “Well, we probably will never know the truth, but isn’t it an amazing coincidence?” And we feel something…then we go on our way, in awe at the goodness of the Lord, yet we have learned nothing. All we have is a speculation, but it will easily become a part of our personal creed. The key is to find a way to prove that something is false. If there is a way to prove something is false, and it is not, that is important. If there is no way to prove something is false, you can never know whether or not it is true, it might as well be a hoax. It isn’t really worth anything. I am not comfortable with people being in awe of God because of a hoax. There is so much about God that is clearly true and magnificent and amazing and wonderful, we don’t need to be making up stuff. And perhaps, most frustrating, are Christians who know almost nothing about God, but are in awe of such things as horoscopes, Nostradamus, the Bible Code, and many other forms of deception. Do things really happen in “3’s”?
Back to Jesus:
If Jesus really was the “Passover Lamb” does that mean that He only died for “first born sons?” One answer we could make up is that, after our resurrection, we all become “first born sons” because we are literally like Jesus. But Jesus ate a Passover meal, the evening before He died. That means He did not die at the time of the Paschal Lamb. He died at the time of the regular evening sacrifice, 3 hours before the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a High Sabbath, which was about to begin. He could not have eaten a Passover Lamb and also died at the same time as the Paschal Lamb. This problem is complicated by changes in Jewish practice since the fall of Herod’s temple. Today, some Jews observe Nissan 14 as Passover, some observe Nissan 15, and some do both. Yet, Paul clearly calls Jesus “our Passover.”
I Corinthians 5:6-8 6Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? 7Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. 8Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Perhaps there is a clue here that might really help. When discussing an immoral man that must be “ex-communicated,” Paul uses leaven as a symbol for anything that is contrary to Jesus’ own purity. He calls malice and wickedness “leaven.” Sincerity and truth are called “unleavened bread.” Jesus is our Passover Lamb. We are to “celebrate the feast!” But Paul cannot be talking about a literal observance of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. He is calling the entire essence of the Christian’s normal daily life a Feast of “Unleavened Bread of sincerity and truth.” Here’s the clue, Paul is not saying that Jesus was sacrificed as part of the Passover observance (which has to happen on the afternoon of Nissan 13,) but that Jesus was sacrificed for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, (which happens on the afternoon of the 14th,) and that is precisely correct! Paul is not saying that Jesus’ death was only for the firstborn, but that He died as the Sacrifice for the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And that is for everyone! During the Passover meal for the Firstborn on the evening of the 14th, Jesus said “this is My body which is broken for you.” Jesus is the Bread that came from Heaven, the Manna. This is at the core of His testimony about Himself. Jesus said nothing about the firstborn. We have been focused on Lamb whose blood saved the firstborn of Israel, but we have missed the requirement Paul is making here, that we are to live a continual Feast of Unleavened Bread, daily consuming Jesus’ words of “sincerity and truth!”