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Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles are the three main “feasts of the Lord” (Lev. 23:4) which all of the people, Israelites and foreigners, were supposed to keep in commemoration of certain historical events.
They are not “Jewish feasts” unless one observes them in a Jewish (Old Covenant) manner. They are God’s feasts and are given to all men. However, the manner in which we are to observe these feasts changed with the advent of the New Covenant.
These changes did not violate the law. The law allows for these changes, setting forth a temporary Old Covenant way of keeping the feasts, while at the same time leaving room for a change under the New Covenant.
The key to understanding how to keep the feasts today is to understand the law that specifies the location that the feasts must be observed. This law is found in Deut. 16. About the Feast of Passover, Deut. 16:2 says,
And you shall sacrifice the Passover to the Lord your God from the flock and the herd, in the place where the Lord chooses to establish His name.
We find the same terminology used in regard to the other feasts. About the Feast of Pentecost, we read in Deut. 16:11,
and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God ... in the place where the Lord chooses to establish His name.
About the Feast of Tabernacles, we read in Deut. 16:15,
Seven days you shall celebrate a feast to the Lord your God in the place which the Lord chooses…
Hence, the law is clear on this subject. The only question is this: Where has God chosen to place His name?
He placed His name first at Shiloh, a town in the tribal territory of Ephraim, where it remained for about 350 years. Then because the priests became corrupted, God abandoned that location and moved His name to Jerusalem on the border between Judah and Benjamin. If men had continued to keep the feasts at Shiloh after God’s presence had departed from there, they would have been in violation of the law. Why? God’s name was no longer at Shiloh.
He remained in Jerusalem for another 350 years until the priests there also became corrupted. Then the prophet Ezekiel saw the glory depart (Ezek. 10:18; 11:23). Soon after this, the king of Babylon conquered Jerusalem, took the holy vessels to Babylon, and eventually destroyed the temple altogether. The glory never returned there, not even when the people returned from Babylon and built a second temple.
The glory, however, had not yet fully departed, for the prophet saw it leave only as far as the Mount of Olives on the east side of Jerusalem. Six hundred years later, Jesus was crucified there, rose again the third day, and then 40 days later ascended, taking the glory with Him to heaven.
He then sent the glory back to earth when the Holy Spirit came upon the 120 disciples in the upper room on the day of the feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:1). This marked the point where God began to reside in a new temple made of “living stones” (1 Pet. 2:5) that was built upon the sure foundation of Christ and the apostles (Eph. 2:20-22).
We also read in Rev. 22:4, “His name shall be on their foreheads.” So we see that on the day of Pentecost “the place where the Lord chooses to establish His name” was the new temple of our own bodies (1 Cor. 3:16).
In the New Testament context, one no longer is required to go to either Shiloh or to Jerusalem to keep the feasts. Neither is anyone required to kill a Passover lamb and put blood on the door posts and lintels on the night of Abib 14. Our Passover Lamb is Jesus Christ, who was killed at Passover of 33 A.D. “once for all” (Heb. 7:27).
So how does one today observe the Passover in a lawful manner? One keeps Passover by applying the blood of Jesus Christ—the true Lamb of God—to the lintel of one’s “house” (that is, one’s forehead). That is how God’s name is put upon our forehead. It is through the blood of the Lamb applied to our body, which is our “house.”
This is the only lawful way that one may keep Passover after the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.
How does one now keep the Feast of Pentecost? Under the Old Covenant, Pentecost was known as Shavuot. It was observed by offering to God two loaves of (wheat) bread, baked with leaven (Lev. 23:17). This is what the high priest was doing at the temple in Jerusalem when the fire of God came upon the foreheads of the 120 disciples in the nearby upper room.
Take note that this took place at the third hour of the day (Acts 2:15), which was when the priest was offering up the loaves of wheat bread in the temple.
Although the high priest set the time for the outpouring of the Spirit, their offering was not accepted by fire. Instead, the fire of God came down upon the heads of the disciples, for their heart-offering was acceptable to God.
So we read in Acts 2:3,
And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit was giving them utterance.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the only way today that a person can lawfully keep the Feast of Pentecost. Since the place He has put His name is in our foreheads, this is why the tongues of fire were on the disciples’ heads.
Visible fire is no longer necessary, of course. It occurred on that first Pentecost in order to show us that this was the place where God had put His name. And so this is the only place where we may now keep Pentecost.
Finally, how does one now lawfully keep the Feast of Tabernacles? Does one keep it by going to a certain location and building a booth made of tree branches, like they did in the Old Testament times? No, as with the other feasts, this feast may only be kept in the place where He has put His name (Deut. 16:15).
The main difference is that this third feast has not yet been fulfilled historically. It will be fulfilled at the second coming of Christ, when we receive our glorified, immortal bodies. It is the feast where we leave this present mortal tabernacle, in which we “groan” (2 Cor. 5:4) and are transferred into that tabernacle “not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1).
Under the Old Covenant, men were required to build booths made of branches from living trees (Lev. 23:40). They were then to camp out in those booths for seven days (Lev. 23:41). In practice, these seven days were spent reading and studying the book of Deuteronomy, because it signified the law being written on their hearts.
Dwelling in booths for seven days was an excellent method of teaching and remembering the law of God. However, the New Covenant fulfillment of this feast is what we are anticipating today. To dwell in a booth at some particular location can easily miss the prophecy in the feast itself.
The booths (sukkot) are “tabernacles,” or tents. In Hebrew thought, our bodies are also tabernacles (tents), and were considered to be one’s “clothing” for the soul.
Paul tells us in 2 Cor. 5:1-4,
For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this (house) we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven; If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened; not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.
Notice that Paul refers to the glorified body as a house, a tabernacle, a building, and as clothing. This clothing is currently reserved for us in heaven, while we “groan” in our present mortal bodies.
There are, then, two sets of clothing here: mortal and immortal bodies. At the present time, we are mortal, but we look forward to the day when our mortality is “swallowed up” by life—that is, when we receive our new clothing that is currently reserved for us in heaven.
At this point in time, we look forward to the historical fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles. We are now in a time of preparation to receive glorified, immortal bodies, even as the Israelites were to prepare their hearts in the wilderness for the day they would enter the Promised Land.
We possess this inheritance as a promise. If we keep the vision of Tabernacles alive, without building a house in the wilderness, we will have the faith of overcomers to inherit all that God has for us.
As individuals, we are justified by faith through the New Covenant application of Passover. We are sanctified and learn obedience, having the law written on our hearts through the New Covenant application of Pentecost. We are glorified through the New Covenant application of Tabernacles.
These feast days were not abolished, but their forms were changed to fit with the New Covenant under which we now live. The three feast days each represent a level of faith in our relationship with God as we mature spiritually as children of God.
Justification, though necessary, is only the first step. Pentecost is a growth period. Tabernacles is the final step where we are declared to be mature sons of God who reflect the image of our heavenly Father. These can be entrusted with Kingdom authority, because they do only what they see their Father do, and they speak only what they hear their Father speak.
Those who come into their inheritance first are those God will use as examples to bring the rest of creation into the same experience, so they too can be blessed and fulfill their purpose for creation.