“On exactly the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD for seven days, with a rest on the first day and a rest on the eighth day” (Lev 23:39).

In Colossians 2:16-17, the Apostle Paul calls the feasts “a mere shadow of what is to come” whose “substance belongs to Christ.” While we must not doubt the truth of Paul's statement, just by reading Leviticus 23 we may be scratching our heads as to how he came to this conclusion. The answer, however, has nothing to do with a burst of new revelation about the hidden meanings of the feasts revealed to the apostles only after Yeshua's resurrection.

According to Leviticus 23:39, the Feast of Tabernacles is the pinnacle of Israel's festive calendar. In the final appointed time in the seventh month, Israel is commanded to celebrate the “gathering” of the crops of the land. In fact, another name for this feast is the “Ingathering” (Exod 23:16; 34:22). And long before the New Testament was written, the Prophet Zechariah regarded this feast a sign for the future. The Feast of Ingathering will be fulfilled symbolically and literally when God “gathers” all nations to Jerusalem in the last days.

It is not a coincidence that “gather” is a key word in Zechariah's description of the Messiah's victorious return (Zech 14:2, 14). God will “gather all the the nations against Jerusalem to battle” (Zech 14:2). On that day, the LORD-Messiah will fight for his people as he did when he delivered them from the Egyptians (Exod 14:14, 25; Zech 14:3). He will split the mountain in two for Israel to flee in safety just as he did to the Reed Sea so that Israel could flee in safety (Exod 14:16, 21; Zech 14:4). And on that day, Israel will “gather” gold, silver, and garments of the hostile nations just as they had when they gathered these same items of spoil from the Egyptians (Exod 12:35, 44; Zech 14:14). And all the remaining nations who embrace Israel's Messiah will come up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem (Zech 14:16, 18).

It is clear that Zechariah is reading the Torah's narratives about Israel's exodus and its laws about the Feast of Tabernacles with an eye to the future.

Israel's exodus and the Feast of Tabernacles are indeed “shadows” of greater days to come! By describing Yeshua's life, death, and resurrection with reference to Israel's Feasts, Paul and the other writers of the New Testament were not reading Jesus backwards onto the pages of the Hebrew Bible. Rather, they prove themselves to have correctly understood the Torah of Moses by learning to read it from the prophets of Israel!

“Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths” (Zech 14:16).

“‘Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.' …Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah'” (Matt 16:28; 17:4).

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