The following festivals, instituted by God in 1491 BC, are still celebrated by many Jews today. All these festivals and sacrificial requirements have been or will be fulfilled by Jesus at either His first or second coming.
Passover (Hebrew Pesach) On the fourteenth day of Abib (later called Nisan) the paschal animal, which is selected on the tenth, is killed at twilight and eaten that night. The Hebrew day starts at sunset so the Passover meal was, and still is, held in the evening at the start of the fifteenth day of Abib (Nisan).
Unleavened Bread is the second part of this first festival period and it also begins on the fifteenth day of Abib. All bread eaten at this festival must be unleavened. This special day commemorates both the angel of death passing over and the hasty flight from Egypt. This festival lasts seven days with the first and seventh days treated as Sabbaths. Later an eighth day was added.
First Fruits A sheaf of barley from the barley harvest (in April/May of our calendar) was waved on the day after the weekly Sabbath of Passover week (Sunday) as a pledge of the other harvests to come. This is the third part of this triple festival. The resurrection of Jesus also occurred on the day of First Fruits (‘Christ the first fruits,’ 1 Corinthians 15:23). The Jews wrongly celebrated it on the sixteenth, interpreting the timing as the day after the special Sabbath.
These first three festivals occurred at the barley harvest and were considered as a whole under the title of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Deuteronomy 16:16) and sometimes as Passover (Deuteronomy 16:2–3). This was one of the three times each year that males were instructed to come together at the worship place chosen by God. The timing of the parts of this festival group was God’s timing pattern for the events at Jesus’ crucifixion (see Appendix E: The Passover Pattern of Crucifixion Week).
Pentecost or Weeks (Shavuot) occurs at the wheat harvest, 50 days from the waving of the sheaf of barley. Fifty days (a week of Sabbaths plus one day) makes it occur on a Sunday. It is also called the Feast of the Ingathering of the Harvest (wheat). It had to be treated as a Sabbath. In the New Testament it was given the title Pentecost (the Greek word for 50) when it happened 50 days from Jesus’ resurrection.
Trumpets (Rosh Hashana) is the first day of the civil year, the first of Tishri (September/October). This New Year’s day has to be treated as a Sabbath.
Atonement (Yom Kippur) is the holiest day of the year is celebrated on 10 Tishri with prayer and fasting after 10 days of penitence from Rosh Hashana (Leviticus 16:1–28). It has to be celebrated as a very special Sabbath.
Tabernacles or Booths (Sukkot) Starting on on the fifteenth day of Tishri (September/October), it is a reminder of the 40 years camping in the wilderness and is also the autumn fruit harvest thanksgiving. It has an alternative name: the Feast of Ingathering (Exodus 23:16). Temporary booths are set up in which the people live for seven days. The first and eighth days have to be treated as Sabbaths.
These last three celebrations, Trumpets, Atonement and Tabernacles, occur at the grape harvest and are also regarded as a whole, the third time in the year that males are expected to come together in a special way of worshiping God (Deuteronomy 16:16). It is a very important festival and will be fulfilled at the Messiah’s second coming (Ezekiel 40:1; 43:2, 7).
Sabbaths The weekly Sabbath on the seventh day begins at sunset on the sixth day and ends at sunset on the seventh day. It commemorates God’s resting on the seventh day after six days of creating the universe (Genesis 2:2–3). Special days at festival times, as noted above, are also to be treated as though they are Sabbaths to honor and worship God.