Israel's Prophetic Spring Feasts
Any serious study of Bible prophecy should begin with the feast days of Israel that are found in the law. The feast days provide us with the basic outline of the plan of God of salvation for the individual, as well as an outline of God's plan (as Paul states) to "put all things under His feet." Too many books on Bible prophecy show very little understanding of the feast days, resulting in some popular but misleading views. The purpose of this book is to give the reader an understanding of Israel's prophetic feast days first, and then build upon that foundation with other laws that prophesy about Christ's second coming. In correlating the New Testament teachings with these lesser-known--but very important--laws of the second coming, the coming of Christ takes on new clothing.
After Jesus' resurrection, He appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus and explained to them the meaning and purpose of Passover and why He had had to be crucified on that day. Luke 24:27 says,
27And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
Later, Jesus appeared to His disciples and explained to them how the law of Passover had prophesied of His death and resurrection. Luke 24:44 and 45 says,
44 Now He said to them, "These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
There is no doubt that Jesus explained to these people how He had been crucified in order to fulfill the Feast of Passover and how He had fulfilled the wave-sheaf offering in His resurrection. It is likely that He also gave them some understanding of the Feast of Pentecost before telling them to tarry in Jerusalem (Luke 24:49).
We who have been endowed with 20/20 hindsight often marvel at how the people of Jesus' day--including the disciples--could have had so little understanding of the real meaning of Passover. As Christians, the prophetic significance of this feast seems so clear to us now. But even today these things are not at all clear to those whose eyes are blinded by traditional Judaism. Even more astounding is that there are so few Christian books outlining the autumn feast days, showing how they prophesy of the second coming of Christ. As a result, the end-time Church today is, generally speaking, as blind to the prophecies of His second coming as the people of Judah were to His first coming--because they do not understand the meaning of the biblical feasts.
This book is written to explain the second coming of Christ, beginning with Moses. Even as Passover, the wave-sheaf offering, and Pentecost were fulfilled in the first coming of Christ, so also the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles prophesy of events surrounding the second coming of Christ. But before we discuss the autumn feasts and the second coming of Christ, we must give a brief teaching on the spring feasts and how Jesus might have explained them after His resurrection.
Jesus Crucified at Passover
Jesus was crucified on the fourteenth day of the first month of the Hebrew calendar. This was the day Israel was to slay the lambs and put the blood on the lintels and door posts of their homes (Exodus 12:6, 7). The law in Exodus 12:6 specified that the people were to kill a lamb or a goat in the afternoon between noon and sundown, or "between the two evenings" (literal Hebrew text). The first evening was at noon, when the sun began to go down; the second was at sundown, when the sun actually set. In his book, The Temple, Alfred Edersheim says on page 211,
"According to the Samaritans, the Karaite Jews, and many modern interpreters, this means between actual sunset and complete darkness (or, say, between six and seven p.m.); but from the contemporary testimony of Josephus, and from Talmudic authorities, there cannot be a doubt that, at the time of our Lord, it was regarded as the interval between the sun's commencing to decline and his actual disappearance. This allows a sufficient period for the numerous lambs which had to be killed, and agrees with the traditional account that on the eve of Passover the daily evening sacrifice was offered an hour, or if it fell on a Friday, two hours, before the usual time."
The people were not to kill their lambs prior to the evening sacrifice in the temple. The evening sacrifice was normally killed at 2:30 p.m. (in the middle of the ninth hour of the day) and offered to God an hour later at 3:30 p.m. However, on the eve of Passover (Abib 14) the evening sacrifices were killed an hour earlier, unless this day fell on Friday, the preparation day for the Sabbath, in which it was killed at 12:30 p.m.
In our next section we will show from early Church writings that Jesus was crucified on a Friday. This is disputed by some, but we mention this here only to show that the evening sacrifice at the time of Jesus' crucifixion was to be killed two hours early--that is, about 12:30 p.m. This was normal practice when Abib 14 fell on a Friday. Only then could the Passover lambs begin to be killed. Yet the lambs certainly also had to be killed by mid-afternoon in order to have them fully cooked by sundown, for all had to be in their houses by that time. Exodus 12:22 tells us,
22 And you shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning.
This law settles the question men have had about the timing of the last supper that Jesus ate with the disciples. There are some who teach that the Last Supper, which Jesus ate with His disciples, was the Passover meal and was eaten on the night of Abib 14 after all the lambs had been killed. That view teaches that Jesus was crucified the following day, Abib 15. This view is based on Jesus' statement in Luke 22:15, "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." It was, indeed, a Passover meal, but it could only have been eaten on the evening after Abib 13, because after this meal, they sang a hymn and then went outside to the Mount of Olives (Mark 14:26), where Jesus was arrested. If they had eaten the Passover meal on the night after Abib 14, it would have been unlawful for them to leave the house.
Edersheim tells us in The Temple, page 213, that "at the first Passover it was said, 'None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning,' which did not apply to later times." This law perhaps did not apply insofar as the rabbinic traditions were concerned. One cannot easily dispute with so great an authority as Edersheim. Hence, it was probably a common practice for people to be outside their houses on the evening of Passover. However, the real question here is whether Jesus fulfilled the law in its every detail in regard to Passover. We do not believe that Jesus would have given credence to the rabbinic traditions that were in violation of Exodus 12:22, especially in view of the fact that this Passover had to be fulfilled precisely in accordance to biblical law.
Therefore, we must conclude that the Last Supper and Jesus' subsequent arrest took place on Thursday evening, the beginning of Abib 14 (as the Hebrews reckoned days). His trial took place that same night, and He was crucified in the morning or at noon.
Jesus was put on trial that same night in front of the Sanhedrin. The following day Jesus was crucified. Mark 15:25 says, "And it was the third hour when they crucified Him," perhaps, when Pilate sentenced Him to be crucified. Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, wrote some decades later that Pilate sentenced Jesus to death at the third hour of the day, but that Jesus was actually put on the cross at the sixth hour, that is, at noon. The third hour of the day was about 9:00 a.m., which was the time of the morning sacrifice in the temple.
The Eclipses That Day
At noon, or the sixth hour of the day, a strange thing happened. The sky suddenly became dark. From Ignatius' letter, which we will quote later, it appears that the sky was darkened for three hours to mark the time that Jesus actually hung on the cross. Matthew 27:45 says,
45 Now from the sixth hour [noon] darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour [3:00 p.m.].
This was not a natural solar eclipse, for astronomers have charted all the lunar and solar eclipses visible in the Middle East for the past 5,000 years. In fact, since Passover always fell on a full moon, it was impossible to have a solar eclipse at Passover, for solar eclipses can occur only at the time of the new moon (that is, when no moon appears in the sky at night). Likewise, eclipses of the moon are seen only at the time of the full moon. And so, while there have been lunar eclipses at Passover on occasion throughout history, there has never been a natural solar eclipse on that day. The darkness that fell over the land at noon during the time Jesus hung on the cross was supernatural, not natural.
Astronomers tell us that in the late afternoon of Passover, Friday, April 3, 33 A.D., while Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were hurrying to bury the body of Jesus, there was also a lunar eclipse. The eclipse began in Europe at 3:01 p.m. when Jesus died, and it was already eclipsed when the moon rose over Jerusalem at 5:10 p.m. that evening.
It is impossible to have a lunar eclipse and a solar eclipse on the same day, because the sun and the moon must be in opposite positions in the sky for these two kinds of eclipses. Yet on this great day in history, God marked the time for all to see by a spectacular miracle. In Bonnie Gaunt's book, The Bible's Awesome Number Code, page 55, we read:
"It was on a lonely hill outside the walls of Jerusalem that this Heavenly One, who came to earth to be born, to suffer, and to die as a man, hung on a cruel cross that afternoon. The hill was called Calvary. Its Greek name was Kranion, whose numeric value is 301.
"At 3:01 in the afternoon, as he looked heavenward and said, 'It is finished,' the moon began to eclipse. It was at 3:01 Greenwich Time that the eclipse began. God makes no mistakes with His timing, nor does He rely on coincidences. The word 'moon' in the New Testament is Selene, and its Gematria is 301. Yes, He who had formed the moon and put it into its orbit around the earth, now had given up His human life at 3:01, on a hill called Calvary (301) precisely when the moon (301) began to eclipse. It was the exact hour when the priests were killing the lambs for Passover. 'Lambs' [in Hebrew] has a numeric value of 301."
For those unfamiliar with numeric values (gematria), the Hebrew and Greek letters served as their numbers as well as letters. Hence, each letter carries a numeric value, and one can add up the value of each letter to obtain the numeric value of any word or sentence in the Bible. In this manner, Bonnie Gaunt shows mathematically the precision of God in timing the first minute of His death (3:01 p.m.) in accordance with an eclipse of the moon (301) on a hill called Calvary, whose numeric value is 301. His death coincided with the Passover "lambs" (301) that were being killed at that same moment.
Why did God also blot out the sun at noon on the day Jesus was crucified? Astronomers tell us that on Abib 14, 33 A.D. at noon, the sun was positioned on a star called El Nath in the head of Aries, the ram. El Nath means "the wounded, or the slain." That was the moment the sun was darkened. Assuming there were no clouds to block their vision, if the people in Jerusalem had looked up to see where the sun had been shining, they would have seen El Nath, the slain ram.
Some say the darkness at noon was a sign of creation in mourning. No doubt it was, but the divine law sheds additional light on this event. If we explain this phenomenon beginning with Moses, we note first that no one was allowed to kill the Passover lamb while it was dark. If the darkness had not ended in mid-afternoon, the people could not have observed the Passover that year, because they were forbidden to slay the lambs after dark. But the darkness lasted only until the ninth hour, or mid-afternoon. The sun came out, and the people began to kill their Passover lambs.
At that moment Jesus spoke His final words and died (Matthew 27:46-50).
God brought darkness so that no one would kill the lambs until Jesus died. This certainly identified Him as the fulfillment of the Passover lamb. He was, as John the Baptist had proclaimed, "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). It was important enough in the plan of God that no one should kill the Passover lambs until the moment Jesus died on the cross. Jesus could not have died on any other day than Abib 14, for this was the appointed time set by the prophetic law of Passover.
Furthermore, God blotted out the sun for three hours in order to prevent the people from killing the Passover lambs until the moment Jesus died on the cross. As we showed earlier, rabbinic tradition allowed them that Friday to kill the Passover lambs as early as 12:30 p.m. after the evening sacrifice had been slain. So God brought darkness to the land in order to force them to conform to the time of Jesus' death--as the law said, "between the two evenings." It was the precise moment in history when the Lamb of God was destined to die for the sin of the world.
The Wave-sheaf Offering
The law said that the priest was to wave a sheaf of barley up and down "on the day after the sabbath" after the Passover (Lev. 23:11). The Pharisees taught that this was to be done on a fixed day of the month, that is, Abib 16, the day after the Passover, which was an extra sabbath day, regardless of the day of the week on which it fell. The Sadducees, on the other hand, taught that the sheaf of barley was to be waved on the day after the WEEKLY Sabbath--that is, on the day the Romans called Sunday.
In 33 A.D. Abib 14 fell on a Friday, and the day of Passover fell on Abib 15, which was also the weekly Sabbath that year. Therefore, the wave-sheaf offering fell on Sunday, Abib 16. It met the requirements of both the Pharisees and the Sadducees that year. This was convenient for them, but unfortunate for us, because Jesus' resurrection on that day did not settle the legal dispute or tell us which sabbath was indicated in the law.
In the early Church, Ignatius, bishop of Antioch and a disciple of John the revelator, wrote a number of letters that give us some useful information on this subject. In chapter nine of his letter to the Trallians, he writes,
"On the day of the preparation [Friday], then, at the third hour, He received the sentence from Pilate, the Father permitting that to happen; at the sixth hour He was crucified; at the ninth hour He gave up the ghost; and before sunset He was buried. During the Sabbath [Saturday], He continued under the earth in the tomb in which Joseph of Arimathea had laid Him. At the dawning of the Lord's Day [Sunday] He arose from the dead, according to what was spoken by Himself, 'As Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of man also be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.' The day of the preparation, then, comprises the passion; the Sabbath embraces the burial; the Lord's Day contains the resurrection."
From this we see that Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, and a Jewish Christian, saw no contradiction in the fact that Jesus was raised on the third day from His crucifixion, rather than after 72 hours that comprise a literal three days and three nights. He may have understood three days and three nights to be a Hebrew idiom meaning continuous time that would never contradict the many other places where Jesus said that He would be raised on the third day. Lamsa says in his Idioms in the Bible Explained, page 46, that in the East those who are "in difficulties and a dilemma" are said to be "in the belly of the whale." It is a Hebrew idiom, drawn, no doubt, from the story of Jonah.
In English, the equivalent of this idiom is to be "in a pickle" or "in a jam." From the time Jesus was in the garden, where He was arrested, Jesus was "in the belly of the whale" for three nights and part of the third day when He was raised from the dead. This also occurred "in the heart of the earth," for to the Hebrew people, Jerusalem was considered to be the center, or heart of the earth. Hence, we could say that, like Jonah, Jesus was in a stressful situation for three days and three nights in Jerusalem, the heart of the earth.
Ignatius was reputed to have been the child whom Jesus set forth in the midst of His disciples in Matthew 18:2 as an example of how one must become as a little child to enter the kingdom of heaven. While some think this to be mythical, all historians recognize that Ignatius was born about 30 A.D. and, as a child, met Jesus personally. In fact, he tells us specifically that he had personally met Jesus in his letter to the Church of Smyrna, Chapter 3. Jerome, who translated his letter into Latin some centuries later quotes him:
"In this last he [Ignatius] bore witness to the Gospel which I have recently translated, in respect of the person of Christ, saying, 'I indeed saw him in the flesh after the resurrection, and I believe that he is'."
Thus, Ignatius was an eyewitness of Jesus Christ not only before His crucifixion, but also after He had been raised from the dead. Though young, he was one of the 500 or so people who saw Him after His resurrection (1 Cor. 15:6). He later became a disciple of John, whom Jesus loved, and eventually he died as a martyr in 107 A.D. It is highly doubtful, then, that Ignatius would have been mistaken in regard to the date and timing of Jesus' death and resurrection.
Justin Martyr (c.114-165 A.D.) was another early Church writer. He wrote in chapter 67 of his First Apology about the timing of Jesus' death and resurrection:
"And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits . . . But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn [i.e., the day before Saturday]; and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun [Sunday], having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration."
Using the names of the Roman weekdays to accommodate his audience, Justin tells us specifically that Jesus was crucified on a Friday, the day before Saturday. He also tells us Jesus was raised from the dead on Sunday. This tells us that Jesus was crucified in 33 A.D., for in that year Abib 14 fell on a Friday. Justin also agrees with all other writers of the early Church in telling us that Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday to fulfill the wave-sheaf offering.
Again, in his Dialogue With Trypho (the Jew), Chapter 107, he speaks of the sign of Jonah, obviously understanding the "three days and three nights" to mean "the third day."
"And that he would rise again on the third day after the crucifixion, it is written in the memoirs that some of your nation, questioning Him, said, "Show us a sign;' and He replied to them, 'An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and no sign shall be given them, save the sign of Jonah.' And since He spoke this obscurely, it was to be understood by the audience that after His crucifixion He should rise again on the third day. And He showed that your generation was more wicked and more adulterous than the city of Nineveh; for the latter, when Jonah preached to them, after he had been cast up on the third day from the belly of the great fish . . . ."
Though Justin was a Greek philosopher and a convert to Christ in the second century, he did learn the Scriptures from the disciples of the Apostles. His view is not unique in the writings of the early Church, nor does it differ from the New Testament.
Jesus' resurrection on Sunday, Abib 16, did not tell us how to interpret the law about waving the barley sheaf on the day after the sabbath, because the Passover sabbath coincided with the weekly sabbath that year. Nonetheless, the early Church writings clearly show that from the beginning they universally adopted Sunday as their holy day in commemoration of Jesus' resurrection. One clear statement comes from the Epistle of Barnabas, Chapter 13:
"Further, He says to them, 'Your new moons and your Sabbaths I cannot endure.' Ye perceive how He speaks: Your present Sabbaths are not acceptable to Me, but that is which I have made, when, giving rest to all things, I shall make a beginning of the eighth day, that is, a beginning of another world [age]. Wherefore, also, we keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead. And when He had manifested Himself, He ascended into the heavens."
There are some who, for various doctrinal reasons, have tried to argue that Jesus rose from the dead on Saturday afternoon just before sundown and that no one knew of it until the following morning when they came to the tomb with spices. However, this is highly improbable, since the priests did not even seal and guard the tomb until the end of the sabbath just before His resurrection. In other words, the guards were placed at the tomb about the time that Jesus supposedly was raised from the dead. This we read in Matthew 27:62 to 28:1.
62 Now on the next day [Saturday], which is the one after the preparation [that is, the day after Friday], the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, 63 and said, "Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I am to rise again.' 64 Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, lest the disciples come and steal Him away and say to the people, 'He has risen from the dead,' and the last deception will be worse than the first." 65 Pilate said to them, "You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how." 66 And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone. 1 Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave.
In the original language there were no chapters and verses as we see them in our Bibles today. These were done by Stephen Langton around 1228 A.D. for easier reference. Likewise, in the original Greek there was no punctuation and no space between the letters and words. So punctuation is also a mere convenience to make it easier for us to read the Scriptures. However, at times the translators put punctuation in the wrong places. This was one of those times. The last two verses above should be read and punctuated as follows:
66 And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone, but after the Sabbath.
1 As it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave.
In other words, they set the seal upon the tomb in the evening after the Sabbath. They had not had time to do so on the Friday afternoon of His burial, because the Sabbath was drawing near. So they had to wait until the next evening when the Sabbath had passed. If Jesus had already been raised from the dead at that time, the stone would have been rolled away, and the soldiers would have come rushing back to report the news immediately. But the tomb was not opened, so they set a seal upon the stone.
Then the soldiers camped next to the tomb that night to make sure no one stole Jesus' body. Then as it began to dawn the next morning, Mary and Mary came to the tomb and found it empty and no one guarding the tomb. The soldiers had already gone to report the resurrection to Pilate.
Pilate himself reported to Tiberius Caesar about these events in a letter that is now lost but what was available for centuries in the early Church. There is a document called Acta Pilati published in the late 1800's by Rev. Mahan which purports to be the original document discovered in the Vatican Library. However, subsequent investigators disputed his claims, saying that he could not possibly have done so at the time he claimed to be in Rome and in Constantinople. According to Edgar J. Goodspeed's book, Strange New Gospels (1931),
"Mr. Mahan . . . gives no reference to manuscript numbers which might aid anyone to find and examine the books he claims to have found. The mention of Hilderium with Shammai and Hillel (p. 215) may be a reminiscence of Ilderim in 'Ben Hur'; there is no such Jewish name. As in 'Ben-Hur,' the Wise Men are a Greek, a Hindu, and an Egyptian. This with the story of Balthasar's death on the afternoon of the crucifixion, which was absent from the original form of the "Report," had important consequences.
"For Mr. Mahan's colleagues in the ministry were not slow to perceive his indebtedness, in Eli's "Story of the Magi," published in 1884, to 'Ben-Hur,' published in 1880. Chief among them was the Rev. James A. Quarles, then head of the Elizabeth Aull Seminary at Lexington, Missouri, and afterward professor in Washington and Lee University. . . .
"Mr. Quarles attacked the genuineness of Mr. Mahan's discoveries in the Boonville Weekly Advertiser, with great keenness. He pointed out that Mr. Mahan was back in Boonville on November 6, 1883, although he claimed to have been discovering manuscripts in Constantinople on October 22, 1883. We may add that the best opinion today in Boonville is that Mr. Mahan did not get farther away than Rome, Illinois, a little village north of Peoria, and that his foreign letters were dispatched from that place. He was absent from Boonville less than two months in the autumn in which he claimed to have visited Rome and Constantinople, discovering and copying manuscripts."
Goodspeed mentions also that Mahan answered Quarles' contentions, "admitting that there were misprints in the book," but Goodspeed does not say whether or not Mahan had misprinted the dates that he was supposed to have been in Rome and Constantinople. Mahan apparently continued to stand by the truth of his manuscripts, though he was "summoned before the Lebanon presbytery in September 1885 to answer charges of falsehood and plagiarism." In that investigation, General Wallace could find no evidence from U.S. Embassy officials in Constantinople or from other missionaries in the area that any of them had seen or talked with Mahan. In other words, Goodspeed says that they could find no one who could verify that Mahan had ever gone to Constantinople.
Further, when investigators contacted the Vatican to talk with Father Peter Freelinhusen, who was supposed to have shown Mahan the Acta Pilati, they were told that no one by that name was listed in the annals of the Vatican Library. Goodspeed continues,
"In the light of this and of other evidence, Mr. Mahan was found guilty of falsehood and of plagiarism, and suspended from the ministry for one year. He left the meeting of the presbytery, promising to withdraw the book from circulation. But it was reprinted in St. Louis in 1887, in Dalton, Georgia, in 1895, and in Philadelphia, by the Antiquarian Book Company, in 1896."
We have taken the time to explain the circumstances surrounding Mahan's Acta Pilati, because in the first edition of this book, we quoted from it and were unaware that it had been discredited by investigations shortly after its publication. This error is now corrected in our second edition with apologies for any past confusion we may have caused.
Regardless of Mahan's forgery, the fact remains that Pilate did issue an official report to Tiberius Caesar regarding the death and resurrection of Jesus. Around the year 200 A.D., the Roman Christian lawyer, Tertullian, referred to Pilate's official report to Tiberius in his Apology, V, saying,
"Tiberius accordingly, in whose days the Christian name made its entry into the world, having himself received intelligence from Palestine of events which had clearly shown the truth of Christ's divinity, brought the matter before the senate, with his own decision in favor of Christ. The senate, because it had not given the approval itself, rejected his proposal. Caesar held to his opinion, threatening wrath against all accusers of the Christians."
The editor's Elucidation IV of The Ante-Nicene Fathers says of the above quotation:
"Great stress is to be placed on the fact that Tertullian was probably a jurisconsult, familiar with the Roman archives, and influenced by them in his own acceptance of Divine Truth. It is not supposable that such a man would have hazarded his bold appeal to the records, in remonstrating with the Senate and in the very faces of the Emperor and his colleagues, had he not known that the evidence was irrefragable [cannot be refuted or disproved]."
Tertullian reaffirms his statement (regarding Pilate's report to Tiberius) in chapter XXI of the same book, saying,
"All these things Pilate did to Christ; and now in fact a Christian in his own convictions, he sent word of Him to the reigning Caesar, who was at the time Tiberius. Yes, and the Caesars too would have believed on Christ, if either the Caesars had not been necessary for the world, or if Christians could have been Caesars."
The fourth-century Church historian, Eusebius of Caesarea, records Pilate's report as well in his History of the Church, II, 2, where he writes:
"And when the wonderful resurrection and ascension of our Saviour were already noised abroad, in accordance with an ancient custom which prevailed among the rulers of the provinces, of reporting to the emperor the novel occurrences which took place in them, in order that nothing might escape him, Pontius Pilate informed Tiberius of the reports which were noised abroad through all Palestine concerning the resurrection of our Saviour Jesus from the dead.
"He gave an account also of other wonders which he had learned of him, and how, after his death, having risen from the dead, he was now believed by many to be a god. They say that Tiberius referred the matter to the Senate, but that they rejected it, ostensibly because they had not first examined into the matter (for an ancient law prevailed that no one should be made a god by the Romans, except by a vote and decree of the Senate), but in reality because the saving teaching of the divine Gospel did not need the confirmation and recommendation of men.
"But although the Senate of the Romans rejected the proposition made in regard to our Saviour, Tiberius still retained the opinion which he had held at first, and contrived no hostile measures against Christ. These things are recorded by Tertullian, a man well versed in the laws of the Romans, and in other respects of high repute, and one of those especially distinguished in Rome. . . ."
These early Church testimonies bear witness that Pilate did indeed send a full report to Tiberius Caesar, which, though somewhat unknown or forgotten, was for some time a matter of public record to those who had access to the Roman archives.
How Did Jesus Fulfill the Wave-Sheaf Offering?
Prophetically speaking, whether Jesus was raised late Saturday afternoon or early Sunday morning is not the issue. The issue is whether or not Jesus fulfilled the wave-sheaf offering on the correct day. This offering was waved in the temple at the third hour of the day "on the morrow after the sabbath" (Leviticus 23:11). Did the offering itself coincide with Jesus' resurrection? No, Jesus rose from the dead before daybreak. Mary Magdalene went to the tomb "early, when it was yet dark" (John 20:1), but found the tomb already empty. The wave-sheaf offering did coincide, however, with His ascension to present Himself as ALIVE in the temple in heaven. He ascended for this purpose a few hours AFTER His actual resurrection, while the high priest was waving the sheaf of barley in the temple. So Jesus fulfilled the law of the wave-sheaf offering, not by His actual resurrection, but by presenting Himself alive in the temple of heaven at the appointed time.
Here is the sequence of events on that resurrection morning. When Mary found the tomb empty, she began to run and soon met Peter and John who were also on their way to the tomb (John 20:2). They all returned to the tomb to see for themselves that His body was missing. Then Peter and John went home (John 20:10). Mary was left alone in the garden. By this time the sun had risen. Jesus then encountered her, but at first she thought He was the gardener. When she finally recognized Him and wanted to touch Him, He told her in John 20:17, "Touch Me not, for I am not yet ascended to My Father" (KJV).
The ascension to which He was referring was NOT His ascension on the fortieth day from the Mount of Olives, which is recorded in Acts 1:3-9. We know this, because Jesus allowed His disciples to touch Him later that same day (John 20:19, 20; Luke 24:39). So Jesus must have ascended to His Father some time AFTER He talked with Mary but BEFORE that same evening when He appeared to the disciples. The only possibility is that He had to ascend at the third hour of the day in order to present Himself as alive in the temple in heaven.
Jesus was actually alive BEFORE the priest waved the sheaf in the temple, but He could not present Himself as alive in heaven in order to be declared legally alive until the time that the priest bore witness on earth. This is why the day of the wave-sheaf offering is important in prophecy. Though it marked the DAY, it did not mark the MOMENT of Jesus' resurrection. It marked the moment that He was declared legally alive in heaven's court.
If a man were to be shipwrecked and marooned on an island for ten years, he would be declared legally dead after about seven years. If that man were then rescued by a passing ship, he would have to go to the courthouse and present himself to the proper authorities in order to be declared legally alive. This illustrates the distinction between being actually dead and being legally dead. When Jesus rose from the dead, He was actually alive, but He was not legally alive until the time of the wave-sheaf offering, when He presented Himself to the Father in the divine court.
This is another prime example in the Bible of the importance of timing. Jesus fulfilled the law in every detail, not only by WHAT He did, but also by WHEN He did it.
There are some who believe that Jesus was crucified on Wednesday afternoon and spent precisely 72 hours in the tomb. They believe that He was raised from the dead on Saturday afternoon, but that this resurrection was not discovered until the following morning. This view uses as its pretext Jesus' statement about being "three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." However, upon closer examination, it is obvious that it was invented primarily in order to undermine the observation of Sunday as a day of worship, because the early Church writers are all unanimous in telling us that they met to worship and "break bread" on Sunday. Their stated reason is that on this day Jesus rose from the dead.
The only way that the Wednesday crucifixion theory would work is if the Sadducees were right in their interpretation of the wave-sheaf offering. If the Pharisees were correct in their view, and the sheaf was to be waved on the fixed day of Abib 16, then the Wednesday crucifixion view could not possibly be true. Jesus would be crucified on Wednesday, Abib 14; then Thursday, Abib 15 would be the Passover Sabbath; and then the sheaf would have to be waved on Friday, Abib 16. But if Jesus were still in the tomb until late afternoon Saturday, Abib 17, then this law of the wave-sheaf could not be fulfilled by Jesus' resurrection.
The only way one might salvage this viewpoint is to adopt the Sadducees' position by saying that the wave-sheaf offering came on the first Sunday after the weekly Sabbath. But even this adaptation makes Jesus' resurrection occur on the day BEFORE the wave-sheaf offering. This does not seem credible to us. It is our view that Jesus ought to be raised from the dead on the same day as the wave-sheaf offering, even if He did not present Himself to the Father in heaven until a few hours later.
I am told that the only year around that time where Abib 14 fell on a Wednesday was in 28 A.D. This year could not have been the year of Jesus' crucifixion, because John the Baptist did not even begin to minister until the 15th year of Tiberius in the Spring of 29 A.D. Tiberius began to reign at the death of his father, Augustus Caesar, on August 19, 14 A.D. This is a well-known date in Roman history, which we fully discussed in Chapter 9 of our book, Secrets of Time. Jesus was baptized in September of 29 A.D. and died in 33 A.D. when Abib 14 fell on a Friday. The resurrection, then, occurred on the third day, the morning of Sunday, Abib 16.
The Feast of Pentecost ("Weeks")
The day of Pentecost in Acts 2:1 occurred on a Sunday, the day on which the people were normally observing the feast during that time of history. We know from the biblical accounts that the Sadducees were in power in the Temple up to the time of its destruction in 70 A.D. (See also Acts 4:1.) Paul Jewett's book, The Lord's Day, includes a footnote on page 128, which says,
". . . the reckoning of the Sadducees, whereby Pentecost fell on a Sunday, regulated the Jewish observance as long as the temple stood. Hence the commemorating of Pentecost as a Sunday (Whitsunday) in the Christian Year cannot be challenged. After A.D. 70, the reckoning of the Pharisees became normative in Jerusalem, whereby Pentecost falls on various days of the week."
Even as the Feast of Passover marked the historic time of Israel's exodus from Egypt, so also the Feast of Pentecost marked the historic time that God spoke the Ten Commandments to the people from Mount Sinai. According to Edersheim in The Temple, page 260,
"According to unanimous Jewish tradition, which was universally received at the time of Christ, the day of Pentecost was the anniversary of the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, which the Feast of Weeks was intended to commemorate."
It was a time when all the people heard the voice of God speaking in their own language out of the midst of fire (Deut. 4:12). However, the people of Israel were too fearful of God's voice to hear the rest of the law. We read in Exodus 20:19-21,
19 Then they said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, lest we die." 20 And Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin." 21 So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.
All the Israelites had enough faith to leave Egypt and thereby keep the Feast of Passover, but very few of them had the faith to experience Pentecost at Mount Sinai. Their fear prevented them from hearing more than just the Ten Commandments, and so they sent Moses up the mount to hear the rest of the law. Moses received it on stone tablets, whereas if the people had been willing to hear the voice of God, He would have written it on their hearts instead.
In Acts 2:1 we are told that the Holy Spirit was given to the Church on the day of Pentecost. It is described as a time when the Spirit came down as tongues of FIRE upon their heads. Even as God came down as fire upon the mount in the days of Moses, so now He came as fire upon the disciples. The main difference is that the fiery presence of God was no longer external upon a mountain, but now internalized in men. Furthermore, God did not accept the Pentecostal offering by fire in the temple. Instead, He accepted the disciples themselves and the offering on the altar of their hearts. This shows a change of temple that God would inhabit. He no longer inhabits temples of wood and stone, for we are now the temples of God (1 Cor. 3:16). Corporately speaking, God is building a new temple with Jesus Christ as the Chief Cornerstone, and the apostles and prophets as the foundation stones, and others as living stones (Ephesians 2:20-22).
The disciples on the day of Pentecost were filled with the Spirit and were doing and saying some strange things. A few bystanders thought that the disciples must be drunk. Peter answered them in Acts 2:15, "these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day." The third hour of the day was when the priest in the temple offered to God the Pentecostal offering of two loaves of wheat bread that had been baked with leaven (Lev. 23:17). The disciples no doubt would have wanted to receive the Holy Spirit earlier, but God made them wait to the appointed time--not just the right day, but even the precise hour of the day. This shows how important timing is to God Himself. It is another example of how the feast days were prophetic of events to come--not only WHAT was to come, but also WHEN.
The Importance of Timing and Historic Fulfillment
If timing was so important in the fulfillment of the spring feasts, then we believe that timing is equally important in the fulfillment of the autumn feasts. There are many who do not fully appreciate God's timing. They see things on an experiential level only. But the Word shows us that there is BOTH an experiential application on an individual, personal level as well as an appointed time on the historic, corporate level.
Men are to experience Passover within their hearts in order to receive justification by faith in the blood of the Lamb. This was true in both the Old Testament and the New. But this did not mean there was no need for Jesus Christ to be crucified historically at the appointed time. In fact, there would be no justification personally, if it were not for the historic fulfillment of this feast.
Men are also to experience Pentecost within their hearts in order to be sanctified by the Spirit. This, too, was true in both the Old Testament and the New. Yet this personal application did not negate the need for the historic occasion recorded in Acts 2. In fact, there would be no indwelling of the Spirit, if it were not for the historic fulfillment of Pentecost in Acts 2.
It is our contention that the same holds true with the Autumn feast days. Some people see only the personal application of these feasts, while others cannot seem to see beyond the external rituals to be held each year at the appointed times. We believe that each feast day has an intensely personal application within the heart--but we also believe that the historic events surrounding the second coming of Christ are manifested in the autumn feasts.
There is, of course, much more that could be written about these spring feast days, but our purpose is merely to give some background that will prove helpful in understanding the autumn feasts and their prophetic message relating to the second coming of Christ.