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Series 4 - God's Plan for You and the Entire World: Unlocking the Secrets of God's Festivals

Hi, friends! Welcome to this exciting series on "God's Plan for You and the Entire World." God's plan is the "trunk of the tree" of God's revelation, and its "roots and branches" can be found throughout the Bible. We can look at God's purpose for humanity and the details of His plan from many angles. We have found that one of the least examined but most fruitful studies is to explore the relationship between the festivals God commanded in the Bible and the stages of His plan. The results of this study are truly amazing. That's why we subtitle this series "Unlocking the Secrets of God's Festivals."

We pray that digging into this study will provide you with many opportunities to grow in understanding and appreciation of God's plan for you and will help you grow in your love and relationship with our great Creator who reveals His will and His goals to us.

And remember, we would love to hear from you and serve you in any way we can.

Lesson 1: The Festivals of the Old and New Testaments

The Festivals of the Old and New TestamentDo you know why the Bible commands us to celebrate seven festivals every year? What did the Old Testament festivals mean to the New Testament Church? What can these harvest festivals teach us about God's growth plan for us and all humanity?

The apostle John recorded many memorable stories in his Gospel so readers throughout the ages "may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:31).

Each miracle and each teaching session that John recorded is designed to help us grow and receive eternal life. Many of Christ's teachings used agricultural analogies to help illustrate spiritual truths. Consider the scene as Jesus tried to open His disciples' eyes to their role in God's spiritual harvest.

John 4 describes Jesus and His disciples traveling through the area of the despised Samaritans, the foreign peoples placed in the land by the Assyrians when they took Israel captive (2 Kings 17:24-41). Though the Samaritans had some elements of biblical truth, the Jews avoided them because they had combined it with pagan religious customs.

Jesus was wearied and sat by the well while His disciples went into town to buy food. When His disciples came back, they were astonished to find Him breaking the Jew's taboos by talking with the Samaritan woman at the well! Perhaps they heard Him reveal to her that He was the Messiah.

As the woman rushed off to tell everyone what she'd discovered, Jesus used this surprising setting as a teaching moment for His disciples.

"In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, 'Rabbi, eat.' But He said to them, 'I have food to eat of which you do not know.'

"Therefore the disciples said to one another, 'Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?'

"Jesus said to them, 'My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. Do you not say, "There are still four months and then comes the harvest"? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together'" (John 4:31-36).

Jesus Christ, the Creator of the harvest seasons and our Savior and King, was calling His disciples then and now to work in His great spiritual harvest that results in eternal life. He was hinting at God's great plan to save all humanity, a plan that few have understood.

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The Harvest Festivals in the Old and New Testaments

How many "feasts of the Lord" are listed in the Old Testament, and how do they relate to the harvest seasons?

Leviticus 23:4-6, 16, 24, 27, 34-36
"'These are the feasts of the Lord, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times.
"'On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the Lord's Passover.
"'And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; seven days you must eat unleavened bread...
"Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord...
"Speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation...
"Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord...
"Speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the Lord.
"'On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it.
"'For seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it.'"

The seven festivals occur during three harvest seasons in the Holy Land. Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread occur at the beginning of the barley harvest in the spring. The Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost, occurs at the end of the barley and wheat harvests. The last four festivals are all in the late summer and autumn harvest season. These are known as the Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, Feast of Tabernacles and Eighth Day (which we often refer to as the Last Great Day).

While these harvest festivals were given to the nation of Israel at that time, note that God calls them "feasts of the Lord" and "My feasts" (Leviticus 23:2).

Did Jesus Christ, the apostles and New Testament Church also celebrate these festivals?

1 Corinthians 5:7-8
Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.
Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Acts 2:1
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

John 7:37
On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink."

These are just a few of the many references to God's festivals in the New Testament. We will cover more of them in future lessons.

Will all nations celebrate these festivals after Jesus Christ returns to set up the Kingdom of God?

Zechariah 14:16
And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.

When Jesus ascended from the Mount of Olives, the angels told His disciples He would return in the same way (Acts 1:9-11). Zechariah 14:4 mentions that "His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives," and this will mark the beginning of the rule of the Kingdom of God on earth. One of the commanded celebrations of the Kingdom of God will be the Feast of Tabernacles, an integral component of the progression of God's festivals.


God's Spiritual Harvests

The Bible uses the analogy of spiritual harvests as a description of God's wonderful plan of salvation. Let's look at several examples that correlate with the three harvest seasons.

Was Jesus Christ the first of the firstfruits?

1 Corinthians 15:20
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

The firstfruits of the physical harvest were the first grains and fruits to ripen. They were offered to God (Exodus 23:19). By analogy Jesus Christ is the perfect spiritual firstfruits and the first to be resurrected to eternal life.

Was the Church (founded on the Feast of Pentecost) also compared to a harvest?

Acts 2:1, 41, 46-47
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place...
Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them...
So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Matthew 9:37-38
Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."

1 Corinthians 3:6-9
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.
So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.
Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.
For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building.

James 1:18
Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.

Pentecost is the Greek name for the festival referred to by several names in the Old Testament, such as "the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors" (Exodus 23:16) and "the day of the firstfruits, when you bring a new grain offering to the Lord at your Feast of Weeks" (Numbers 28:26). It signaled the end of the spring harvest and thus can represent the spiritual harvest of the Church during this time.

What about everyone else? Does the Bible show a sequence for these spiritual harvests?

1 Corinthians 15:22-23
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.
But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming.

Revelation 20:12
And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.

This quick overview has probably raised many questions in your mind. Each of these future harvests and the related festivals will be covered in more detail in future lessons. We hope this lesson has introduced the biblical analogy of harvests as it relates to the unfolding plan of salvation for humanity. God truly has a plan for each and every man, woman and child who has ever lived, and understanding and observing the festivals of God can help us unlock some of the wonderful depths of meaning that we might otherwise easily miss.


Apply Now

Jesus Christ taught His disciples with many agricultural analogies. One of His most famous parables is the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:3-9. Read this parable now, and then read the explanation Jesus gave in Matthew 13:18-23.

This parable shows that we have an individual responsibility for how we respond to the "word of the kingdom," the gospel message. Take a few minutes to think about and write down some of the dangers Jesus outlined and how you plan to combat these human tendencies and pitfalls. Pray and seek God's help to become the good soil needed for His seed to grow.

The parable also gave the disciples an overview of how the gospel would be received by different individuals during the firstfruits harvest of the Church. Sadly, it seems many won't respond in this age. But as we will see in future lessons, this is not the end of God's plan to offer salvation to all humanity. God reveals much more through His festival plan.

Next Lesson: The Sabbath: Remembering Creation and Looking Forward to the Promised Future Rest

Questions about this lesson? Feedback about this lesson?

Related Resources:

God's Harvest Feasts: His Assurance of Hope for Mankind

The Festivals of God

God's Feasts Answer the Big Questions, Part 1

God's Feasts Answer the Big Questions, Part 2

God's Holy Day Plan: Blueprint for Salvation (video)

Are the Biblical Holy Days Christian Festivals?

God's Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind