Preached by Dr. Gene Scott on August 12, 1984
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.
COLOSSIANS 2:16 SAYS, “LET NO MAN THEREFORE judge you in meat, or in drink . . .” My Bible has a better translation in the margin: it simply says, “Let no man therefore judge you because of your eating and drinking.” Let’s read it again along with the next verse: “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.” The Old Testament laws and ordinances were only shadows. When we see a shadow, we look for the substance that cast the shadow. Christ is the Substance. Why does the church always drift back into legalism, into keeping certain days and following rules of behavior? All of those laws and ordinances were gathered up and put into Christ. There will always be people who try to impose their legalistic behavioral standards on the church. Such legalism is an insult to Christ, and Paul calls those legalists “perverts” and “deceivers.” Yet those who blindly purvey those things would have us believe that they are the Christ-like ones as they substitute their behavior for Christ. Paul is saying throughout the book of Colossians that God begins everything, sustains everything and gathers everything back to Himself in order that He might give preeminence to His Son.
I respect people’s convictions. Romans 14 makes it clear that if you believe something is wrong, then it is a sin for you to do that particular thing. If you want freedom, God puts an obligation on you to learn from His word. Your conscience is not an inbuilt spiritual motor that makes sure you always go in God’s direction; rather, the conscience is comprised of a myriad number of impulses, and it has to be fed with content. Your conscience is fed by a host of sources, including culture, parents, school and church traditions. Paul says in Ephesians 4 that God “gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists, and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry.” Literally, it says, “for the equipping of the saints to the work of the ministry.” This passage describes the true role of ministers, but I don’t find many of them doing it. Too many ministers are man-pleasers: they test the wind and then perpetuate what the people want to hear. God gave these gift-ministers to the church “for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith.” Unity is only possible when the unifying element is accepted. God wants Christ to be preeminent. Paul goes on to explain how we come to the unity of the faith, which is only through “the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man.” There is only one perfect man, and that is Christ.
You have a right to live your convictions. Again, if you believe something is wrong, then it is wrong for you to do it. The only way your beliefs about right and wrong will change is through the study of God’s word. There is no “chapter and verse” for many things people do out of habit formed by their family’s traditions; there is no “Second Book of Grandpa.” When you come to know God’s word, the content of your conscience will change and you will no longer be in doubt and wonder, “Can I do this?” If you think something is wrong, then don’t do it! Give your conscience the benefit of the doubt until you are taught a little better, and don’t presume on God. As pastor, my message is, “Live your convictions, preach Christ.” That is our common denominator. Again, God has determined that Christ will be preeminent.
There was conflict in the New Testament church because of people who tried to graft Old Testament practices onto the church and make Christians keep a lot of rules, regulations and laws, which Paul said were only shadows. The shadows don’t lose their meaning when you find the Substance, but the shadows should not dominate. Rather, the shadows point you to the Substance. Paul and the author of Hebrews, who was certainly influenced by Paul, took these Old Testament shadows and gave them meaning in the New Testament.
So today I want us to look at the ways in which Christ fulfilled the Old Testament feast days. They are called “feasts” in Leviticus 23, but the Hebrew word simply means “set times.” God instructed Moses to tell the people, “These are the set times of the LORD.” The set times included the Sabbath, Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles.
Let’s start with the Sabbath. In the New Testament, the author of the book of Hebrews says, “There remains a rest for the people of God.” Literally, if says in the Greek that there remains a “Sabbath-keeping” or sabbathing for the people of God. Then the author goes on to define what that means: we are sabbathing when in faith we rely on Christ’s finished work in the knowledge that He died for our sins, was raised up for our justification and is alive forevermore. His Spirit in us can reproduce His own nature in us. We cannot imitate it. In faith, we accept God’s promise of salvation and we no longer lean on our own righteous works in order to gain an entrance into heaven; rather, we accept the merits of Christ as the basis of entrance.
Whenever we act in faith on a promise of God, we are keeping the Sabbath. Let me give you some practical examples of how you can apply this to your daily life. When you are sick, you can make yourself perform an act of faith by proclaiming God’s promise, “I am the LORD that healeth thee.” This is what I call “hanging your body” on God’s word. When you are anxious about the future, you can grab hold of your wandering thoughts and declare, “The LORD is my shepherd” and “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD.” Though your circumstances may look terrifying, God has promised to go with you and He is with you wherever you are. If you are facing economic threats or even failure, you claim the promise, “I am the Lord who provides,” and “I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” When you tithe and claim the promises of God, you are sabbathing.
You don’t have to do any of those things that some Jewish people do to keep the Sabbath, such as cooking their meals in advance on Friday and not walking more than three-fifths of a mile from their possessions on Saturday. To keep the Sabbath in the old sense of the word means to refrain from normal activities from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday. I wonder what the rules would be for someone living near the North Pole where the sun does not set for six months! Would it mean he couldn’t have any fun in the summer while the sun was shining, but in the winter he would be free to do anything he pleased while he was cooped up in the dark for six months?
Keeping the Sabbath was only the shadow. Even in the Old Testament, resting in God required a trusting commitment. God fed the children of Israel with manna from heaven as they traveled through the wilderness. The manna would rain down for six days, but it did not fall on the seventh day. The people were instructed to gather the manna every day except on the seventh day, and they were to gather twice as much on the sixth day. Those who obeyed God were the ones who trusted Him. But sure enough, there were people who disobeyed God and tried to gather it on the Sabbath. There was also a “Jubilee” year, in which the people were to cancel all debts and rest in the Lord. To keep the Sabbath and the Jubilee year took trust in God that you could make it. You had to trust that God would provide for you as you rested in Him, even though you stopped doing the normal activities that would have guaranteed your provision.
In the New Testament, all of that is changed and our focus in on the Lord of the Sabbath. “Keeping the Sabbath” in the New Testament means acting in faith. Why then do we gather for church on Sunday, since we no longer keep the Sabbath? First of all, the Sabbath has always been Saturday, not Sunday. We gather together on Sunday because the New Testament church met on that day, which was the first day of the week. In 1st Corinthians 16, Paul instructed the church to save up and take a collection on that day. It was simply a regular gathering of God’s people; they were not legalistically keeping a certain day. The so-called “blue laws” of colonial America were puritanical, not scriptural, for every day is now alike. The Sabbath has found its fulfillment in faithing. Sabbathing equals faithing in the New Testament, and faithing brings us the same benefits and even more than the Jews obtained by keeping a certain day.
Now let’s look at the next set times, Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Remember, we are looking at shadows of the Substance, and the Substance is Christ. Paul says in 1st Corinthians 5:7 that Christ has become our Passover. Christ was crucified on a Passover.
On Passover, a lamb was slain on the fourteenth day of the month as designated by a lunar calendar worked out by the rabbis. Therefore, Passover could fall on any day of the week. The Feast of Unleavened Bread began at sundown on the evening of the fourteenth day, and it lasted for a week. If Passover fell on a Friday, then Unleavened Bread would begin on Friday night, continue on Saturday and last until the following week.
The next set time was Firstfruits, which always fell on the first day of the week, starting on Saturday night. Firstfruits occurred during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and thus was a feast within a feast. Since Unleavened Bread could begin on any day, Firstfruits could fall anywhere from the second to the seventh day of Unleavened Bread. Then there was Pentecost, the harvest festival, which came 50 days after Firstfruits.
In order to understand how Christ fulfilled these set times of the Lord, we first need to make it clear that He didn’t die on a Friday. The tradition of “Good Friday” is a medieval custom that distorts the facts and robs the shadows of their meaning. It is one of the greatest victories Satan accomplished, because to say that Jesus was crucified on a Friday and rose on Sunday morning makes God a liar. Jesus was neither crucified on a Friday nor resurrected at sunrise on Sunday morning. Those medieval customs, which were grafted onto the church, destroyed the perfection of the fulfillment of the shadows, the feast days or set times of the Lord.
On the Feast of Atonement, a sacrifice was offered for the sins of all the people. Both Passover and Atonement point to Christ as the Redeemer, so someone might reason that the two feasts could be combined into one feast. But in reality, the two feasts are separated by a significant gap of time. Why? The facts of history show that only some people will accept Jesus as their Passover. As history unfolds, the Feast of Atonement will be fulfilled at a later time, during the Great Tribulation period. During the Great Tribulation, the remainder of God’s elect will finally recognize Christ is their only Covering and Redeemer.
These feast days were prophetic shadows of God’s set times, all of which should exalt Christ and nothing else. In the Old Testament, the laws and ordinances called for human conformity to an earthly pattern; in the New Testament, Christ summarizes it all.
During His earthly ministry, on a Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus’ brethren told Him that He should go to Jerusalem. John’s Gospel records Jesus answering, “My time is not yet come.” At one point, the religious leaders schemed to seize Him, but they said, “Not on the feast day lest there be a riot.” Some have speculated the religious leaders feared that arresting anyone on a holy day would cause a riot. That is nonsense. Pilate himself said to the Jews, “You have a custom on this day to release one prisoner. Shall I release Barabbas to you or Jesus?” And the people cried, “Give us Barabbas!” The fact that there were legal proceedings on a feast day wasn’t the problem. The issue was that Jesus had claimed to be the Messiah. He even plainly said, “I am He” to the Samaritan woman when she said, “I know that Messiah cometh.” If Jesus were to die on Passover, He would fulfill the message of John the Baptist, who said, “Behold, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” If Jesus were to die on Passover, His own statements that He would give His life “a ransom for many” would have substance. The Jewish leaders knew that Jesus must not under any circumstances be taken and crucified on Passover, yet the events so mounted that they were forced to crucify Him on Passover in spite of themselves.
In that year, Passover fell on a Wednesday. That means Passover began on Tuesday evening at sundown and ended on Wednesday evening at sundown. Exodus 12:6 says the people were to kill the Passover lambs “in the evening.” In the original Hebrew, it says “between the evenings.” That explains how Jesus would partake of the Passover supper with His disciples in the upper room on Tuesday evening, when Passover started, and still be taken, tried, crucified and buried on Passover by sundown on Wednesday evening.
When people came to Jesus and said, “Show us a sign,” Jesus replied, “There will be no sign given, except one.” Now God has in fact mercifully given a number of signs to prove Himself. For example, He knocked Paul down on the Damascus Road and gave him his commission. But the point is that God doesn’t have to give any signs. The only sign He has ever guarantee as proof He keeps His word is the sign of Jonah, which would be fulfilled in Christ. If Christ would die and be buried in the tomb for three days and three nights and then come out, the substance would be fulfilled, of which Jonah was only a shadow. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ would be the rock-solid sign or verification of the Christian faith and a demonstration of its uniqueness.
But look at how the church has destroyed this “only” sign by grafting on heathen traditions. If Jesus were crucified on Good Friday, then He would have been placed in the tomb on Friday night. Friday night to Saturday night is one day, and Saturday night to Sunday morning is only a half day. So at most, Jesus would have been in the tomb for only a day and a half. If that were true, it would imply God messed up the only sign Jesus said we would count on to prove God’s veracity as the basis for faith. There would be no point in our gathering at church today, so we might as well all go home. No, it was the church that messed it up, not God!
Now let’s count the days using a Wednesday crucifixion day: Jesus was crucified on Wednesday by 6 P.M. The Feast of Unleavened Bread began on Wednesday night. Wednesday 6 P.M. to Thursday 6 P.M. is one day and one night; Thursday 6 P.M. to Friday 6 P.M. makes two days and two nights; Friday 6 P.M. to Saturday 6 P.M. makes a total of three days and three nights or 72 hours.
The women were free to go to the tomb immediately after the Sabbath ended which would have been on Saturday night at sundown. So instead of the traditional view that Jesus rose on Sunday morning at sunrise, He rose on Saturday evening, which was the beginning of the first day of the week. The Jews in the New Testament times didn’t use our western calendar; they used a Hebrew calendar and Saturday night at sundown was when the first day of the week began. So Jesus rose exactly 72 hours after He had been placed in the tomb, and we have a solid basis for our faith!
Jesus was right on time. He was crucified in a year when Passover fell on a Wednesday so that He could lie hidden in the tomb for three days in order to fulfill the type of the Unleavened Bread. It amazes me that to this day the Jews will hide a piece of unleavened bread in their homes and bring it out at the end of the Passover meal. Jesus would come forth from the tomb in time to fulfill the type of Firstfruits, which occurred at the end of the third day after His crucifixion. Paul said in 1st Corinthians 15 that Christ has become the Firstfruits by His Resurrection. Exactly on time Jesus had to be crucified, exactly on time He had to be in the tomb, and exactly on time He had to come out of the tomb on sundown Saturday, because the Old Testament set times pointed to the Substance, the Body, which is Christ. Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits – Christ fulfilled them all, right on time!
Now we come to Pentecost. Before Christ ascended, He told His disciples, “You will be my witnesses, but tarry first at Jerusalem until you be endued with power from on high.” They waited 50 days, and exactly at sundown, 50 days after Firstfruits, Acts 2 says, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” There could not be any delay, which is why it says, “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind…And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” Jesus had prayed for the Spirit to come. In John 17, He prayed the Father “that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us . . . that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me.”
Pentecost was the harvest festival, and the day of Pentecost fulfilled its meaning. Pentecost signified the beginning of a set time of harvest. The disciples had been in the upper room all night, and the next morning they left the upper room and went outside to preach. There must have been a commotion; perhaps the neighbors complained about the noise in the street. A multitude gathered and some of the people mistakenly thought the disciples were drunk. But Peter stood up and began to preach, and before the day of Pentecost ended at sundown, 3,000 people were born into the kingdom.
There is something I want us to notice about the number 3,000. In Exodus 32, Moses was up on the mountain receiving God’s law. All the people down below had gotten tired of waiting for him and were having a party, worshiping a golden calf. Moses came down from the mountain carrying the tablets of stone inscribed with God’s law, and when he saw what the people were doing, in anger he broke the golden calf, ground it into powder, made soup out of it and made them drink it. Then Moses told the sons of Levi to arm themselves with swords, and they slew 3,000 men! Think of that: when the law came, which was only the shadow, 3,000 were killed on the first day. But when the Spirit came, 3,000 were born into the kingdom with eternal life on the same day! There are no accidents in God’s book. I came to faith from a study of the Resurrection, but the more I stay with the Bible the more I know that no human being could have hidden all these interconnections. The Spirit brings life, and exactly on time, the Feast of Pentecost or harvest feast began to be fulfilled. The day of Pentecost was the beginning of the true harvest of this earth’s grain.
There are three feasts remaining to be fulfilled that fall in a set sequence of days toward the end of the Jewish civil year: Trumpets, Atonement and Tabernacles. The Feast of Trumpets will be fulfilled when Jesus comes again, which will be in the fall of the year. The church, the body of Christ, will be lifted home. Then the Feast of Atonement begins, which will be fulfilled during the seven-year period of the Great Tribulation, when God will pour out His wrath on earth.
In the Old Testament, the Feast of Atonement was called a time for afflicting the soul. During the Great Tribulation period, there will be many Jews, members of the house of Israel, and other strangers who had not accepted the finished work of Christ. They had not accepted Christ our Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits. They had not accepted the fulfillment of Pentecost when by grace God placed His Spirit in us to change us. During the Great Tribulation, God will use affliction to drive them to Him. Then they will understand and look on Him “whom they have pierced,” as Zechariah says, and finally accept His atonement. And at the end of the Great Tribulation, the Millennium will begin, which Zechariah clearly names as the Feast of Tabernacles. Every one of these feasts will occur exactly on time and every one of them will exalt Christ! The Bible is God’s word, His revelation; and when we see its interconnections and the fulfillment of prophecy, we know it is impossible that it could have been conceived and written by a mere mortal.
God keeps saying one message over and over again in His book. And when you see God put His Son center stage, you would be a fool to try to parade your puny works of self-righteousness before God. You would be a fool to think that God would be impressed by how you dress or whether you wear your hair long or short. When we put things in their proper perspective, we see that God wants His Son to have preeminence. All these things were only shadows, but the Substance is Christ. Let’s keep our eyes on Christ, where they belong. Christ displaced my inadequacy and rectified my wrongs, and He did it all for me in order that I might give Him what means the most to Him: trust and faith, instead of my feeble performance. Will you say this with me? “Thank God for His grace and His goodness!”
Reprinted with permission from Pastor Melissa Scott
FALL FEASTS FOR 2019:
Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) –Begins at sundown on September 29th and runs thru October 1st.
Feast of Atonement – October 9th
Feast of Tabernacles – Begins at sundown on October 14th and runs thru October 20th.
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