The simple question, “What is the Gospel?” can be surprisingly divisive. After 20 years of following Messiah, I’ve come to realize that when the “Good News” is seen from a human perspective the answer will understandably be limited and incomplete. Imagine how powerful the unrealized fullness of the gospel will be if the partial version we’ve embraced has already been so life transforming!
To answer, “What is the Gospel?” most will simply turn to Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. However, in Leviticus Chapter 23, God gives us a prophetic road-map of annual celebrations that guide us through the entire vision of the good news. By going back to God’s original design, we can embrace the amazing power of the gospel that has been partially obscured by human religious tradition and bad doctrine. YHWH’s intention has always been for ALL of His people to honor His moedim (appointed times) so that this gospel message would never be forgotten and so it could be spread to all of the nations. However, as the prophets had proclaimed, those who are the most prolific at proclaiming and preaching about Messiah have sadly lost the map He provided in the Torah. “Torah” is a Hebrew word meaning “instructions”, and typically refers to the first five books in the Bible. Without an understanding of the Torah, verses in the out-of-context New Testament can be very misleading.
Proverbs 29:18 “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keeps the Torah, happy is he!”
The Hebrew word “moed” is translated as “appointed times”. Here are the seven appointed times, in order, with a simplified summary of how each preaches a unique aspect of the Good News.
Pesach (aka Passover): Despite centuries of tradition, the Hebrew word Pesach does not mean “Passover”, it actually means “Protection”. When YHWH “passed over” Egypt, He “protected” His people from death. This first moed introduces three of the best-known symbols of the Gospel–The Door, The Lamb, and The Blood. Each year in the Spring, on the evening of the full moon, we reset our walk with Messiah during a special meal that remembers our REDEMPTION (and therefore His protection) from the ways and the eventual fate of the world. The price of that redemption was paid with the blood of Messiah (The Lamb) to open the door to His Kingdom. Traditional Christianity condenses the entire Gospel into the events of this one moed, because the transformation that accompanies our walking through that door is so powerful and memorable. Of course, traditional Christianity has re-branded this day as “Good Friday” which has also limited it’s designed weight and scope. Most of the attributes Christianity connects to “The Cross” are actually rooted in the ideas of this time appointed in the Torah.
Matzah (aka Unleavened Bread): Matzah essentially begins while the Pesach meal is being eaten and lasts for 7 complete days. Because it’s so inseparable from Pesach, its common to refer to the entire eight days as if they are one complete feast. During Matzah, all bread containing leaven is removed from our houses, which means that for one week we eat nothing but unleavened bread. This reminds us of the process of SANCTIFICATION (being set-apart as Holy) that must follow our redemption from the world. Messiah did his part, by paying that price– but now we must begin to do our part. We have to practice seeing the world from God’s perspective, and learn to discern what is acceptable and what is not. In Eden, food is first introduced as an object-lesson pitting our obedience to His commands against our own fleshly desires. Each year Matzah serves as a reminder that we are no longer in charge of our own bodies, and what we would prefer to consume is no longer an option. The good news is that we no longer have to trust our own sinful and defective senses, we have been giving a new paradigm through which to see ourselves and the world. The good news is we are no longer slaves to the world, but instead we are bond-servants to Messiah.
Reshit Katzir (aka First Fruits): First Fruits begins in the midst of Matzah, and always occurs on the Sunday following Pesach. These first three appointed times are obviously connected in both timing and theme. Prior to Messiah’s ministry, this day was simply the beginning of the annual harvest. No fresh produce of any type could be eaten until the First Fruits offering was made by the High Priest. This is the day that Messiah rose from the grave, and presented himself to Yah as the “First Fruits of the Resurrection.” The good news is quite obvious–in addition to being Redeemed, and Sanctified, Messiah has proven by his example, that death is simply the beginning of something far more powerful and unstoppable. Everlasting life is an unshakable promise to the faithful. After Messiah rose from the grave, he visited the disciples, and filled them with the Holy Spirit. So then, First Fruits is also the start of the process of SALVATION that will produce good fruits of all sorts in our lives. Roughly 400 years after Messiah’s ministry, the earliest Roman-Catholic government council replaced this moed with “Easter”, borrowing many of the most crucial themes, while intentionally separating it from the appointed times given by God to Moses in Leviticus.
Shavuot (aka Pentecost, aka The Feast of Weeks, aka The Feast of Reaping, aka The Way): First Fruits doesn’t stand alone, it is actually the first day of an appointed time that lasts for 50 days. This massive celebration is often (sadly) truncated to it’s final day, which celebrates the powerful arrival of the Holy Spirit in Acts Chapter 2. When understood in its seven week fullness, Yah is teaching us to expect a growing harvest of the fruits of the spirit as we continue the process of sanctification introduced on the first day of Matzah, but which officially began on First Fruits. The main symbols of this day are two extremely large leavened loaves of bread–an intentional and inspiring contrast to the unleavened bread that kicked off the feast season. The literal growth that happens in the dough illustrates what happens in the lives of the faithful when we consistently embrace the ways of the Kingdom and reject the leaven (influence) of the world.
This entire period of seven weeks trains us to both work and rest on His schedule, and proves that He alone is our sole provider of every requirement of a Holy life–healing, food, water, protection, and a representative government based on holy fear and perfect law. There is a 50-day bible study detailing all of this here. The good news of Shavuot is the promise of EMPOWERMENT.
It should be obvious that the first four moedim are linked together, and designed to be honored in their proper order. If the themes we celebrate are out of place in our lives, our doctrine will be out of place, and we’ll suffer for it. For example, if we embrace EMPOWERMENT without SANCTIFICATION, or worse, without even the first step of REDEMPTION, we ignore Messiah’s warning in Matthew 7:22-23, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
The first four moedim are focused on we as individuals. Our own personal faith is the basis of our redemption, and to a large degree our own personal obedience to Yah’s instructions determines the fruit produced in our lives. (This is not to say that sin is defined by our own personal convictions!) These first four “Spring Feasts” represent our current lives and realities but require us to remember Yah’s past faithfulness (such as the Exodus from Egypt and the earthly ministry of Messiah). In contrast, the final three moedim, often referred to as “The Fall Feasts” shifts the focus to our corporate fate as a holy nation, and to the promises and expectations still future to us.
Yom Teruah (aka Feast of Trumpets, aka The Day of Shouting, aka in Judaism Rosh Hashanna): This unique day occurs on the first day of the seventh Biblical month, which occurs each year during the new moon just before Fall begins. This day celebrates the gospel of HOPE. The notable sign of Yom Teruah is a shofar blast, a trumpet sound, or a loud shout! Every ultimate HOPE we are waiting for will be realized on this future day, and until that day we celebrate all aspects of these promises.
2000 years ago, this shout of hope came from the heavenly host at the birth of Messiah, and a much louder shout will be heard around the world upon the His return on this very same day. On this day of Messiah’s return, the faithful will be resurrected and will be instantly be brought into the promised land. On this day, Satan will be bound for 1000 years, as Yah’s Kingdom is truly established here on this very earth. With Satan’s power completely contained, Yah’s Law will finally be written on our hearts without interference. Messiah will begin to rule and reign from Jerusalem, and His perfect Torah will be taught to all the nations. At least for those of us living in the Kingdom, sickness, war, strife, and death will all be foreign. On that future day will be the realization of the New Covenant that is currently a prophecy and a promise.
We will be Messiah’s perfected ambassadors to the rest of the world, teaching, healing, and encouraging all of those who remain in the other nations who will continue to marry, give birth, and die. They are still aced with a choice to follow Yah’s ways, because final judgment has still to be rendered.
Ha Yom Kippurim (aka The Day of Atonement(s), aka Yom Kippur): Each year, 10 days after the noisy joy of Yom Teruah, we honor Ha Yom Kipporim by quietly abstaining from every form of work. Additionally, we enter into a very solemn fast–many choose to fast from both food and water. We remember the gospel that perfect JUSTICE will occur, and that both injustices we see in this world and the imperfections we see in ourselves will someday be completely dealt with by our perfect high-priest. This prophetic day will be fulfilled upon the ending of the Millennial reign, when Satan is released and the nations of the earth will be briefly open to his deceptions once again. One last futile war of evil against good will be staged and Yah will vanquish every last enemy with a single word. On this same day, every remaining formerly-living soul will be resurrected to face final judgement, and when the day is done, only the perfected righteous will remain on the earth. All death and all evil will be burned in the lake of fire forever.
Sukkot (aka The Feast of Booths, aka The Feast of Tabernacles, aka The Feast of In-gathering): On the 15th day of the Seventh month, coinciding with the Full Moon, we set up temporary dwellings and live outdoors (ideally) for 8 days. The tithes and abundance of the entire harvest season are brought together as we celebrate together the culmination of the gospel of JOY. Prophetically, this will be the final wedding celebration as we (The Bride) and Messiah (the Bridegroom) are finally wed for eternity. The final day of this moed is known as “The Last Great Day” or “The Eighth Day” where we celebrate the promise of Heaven and Earth being recreated, with a perfect and holy New Jerusalem as the center of the new creation.
It’s a sad reality that much of what I detailed above will seem like a foreign religion to most Christians. If you made it to the end of this article, and feel overwhelmed, start with Passover in the spring. Do your best to honor the principles of that day with your whole heart and to the best of your ability and understanding. An important symbol of Passover is “the door”, and Messiah says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Rev 3:20). He will be faithful to those words!