~ The Seven High Sabbaths in Revelation ~
Beholding the Deep Structure of John’s Vision And the Shadows of Things to Come
Bruce D. Curtis, MA, M.Div. ©2017
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For the Bond-servants of God
Let not anyone judge you in eating and in drinking or in respect of a feast or of a new moon or of Sabbaths, which things are a shadow of things coming, but the body of Christ [soma Christou]. Colossians 2:16-17 (emphasis added)
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must shortly take place; . . . Revelation 1:1 (emphasis added)
“Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to restrain the transgression, to seal up sins, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy. So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with streets and moat, even in times of distress. Then after sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have no one, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And his end will come with a flood; even to the end war will be decreed for desolations. And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out 0n the one who makes desolate.” Daniel 9:24-27 (emphasis added)
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The Shape of Things to Come
It may come as a surprise to many that the book of Revelation – Apokalypsis – had a much smoother pathway to canonical status than many church leaders have taught, though it encountered problems nonetheless. That we even have this book in the canon of the New Testament presents fundamental controversies for Christian theology. It remains not only extremely complicated and esoteric, but as controversial as it was in the 2nd through 4th centuries of the early church. What is critical to remember is that the controversy surrounding the book’s authoritative status did not hinge on authorship or other historical considerations, but centered on theological grounds. It was the doctrine of the chiliasm, or the millennial kingdom of Christ on earth that fired the debate. In the early 3rd century Gaius objected specifically on those grounds, and his objection re-surfaced in the 4th century and later in the east, and has survived until this day in Orthodox quarters as the so-called chiliast heresy.
Its hearty backing for canonical recognition notwithstanding, it remains without question that Revelation has been the most hotly debated book of the New Testament. But would anyone make the leap to say that it could be a lynchpin for many quintessential doctrines which God’s people have upheld for almost two millennia? Well, in Gaius’ objection we do find a challenge to the teachings of Christ that would undermine the very words of Jesus Himself and those of His prophets. If there is no kingdom like the millennium that comes on earth with Christ Jesus ruling as the King of Kings, then what is the Church to make of the “Lord’s Prayer?” Thy kingdom come . . . on earth as it is in Heaven – would lose all sense if it were reduced to a wishful thought not grounded in God’s plan of salvation. And what kind of cruel irony on the part of our God if He tells us to pray for something to come that really won’t come?
The shepherd-prophet Amos revealed a fundamental principle of scripture: Surely the Lord God will do nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets (Amos 3:7). And the prophets are replete with references to YHWH Elohim, the Lord God, establishing His mountain – to be read ‘kingdom’ in the divine lexicon – above all other mountains on earth. Still, some may question whether that kingdom finds a place on earth at the same time, or is it just in Heaven above? And the answer is a resounding “yes” that there is a kingdom to come on earth; there is a super abundance of agricultural imagery that portrays a renewal of nature, and a rest for the land. In another installment, we will present a comprehensive view of the millennium from the synoptic view of the prophets as a collective voice of the Logos proclaiming the coming restoration of the “fortunes of Jacob.” This is nothing other than the release from captivity according to the original Hebrew, and that amounts to a Passover release from sin and death.
Without the millennial kingdom, Christ would not be King of kings, and he would not bear the identity of the Lamb of God slain from the foundations of the world, for he would not deliver His own from sin and death. The removal of evil, it will turn out may not be possible without the millennium, because there needs to be a time where the kingdom of God and Babylon stand side by side, at least within the consciousness of humanity, and that there needs to be one last choice for each and every soul to determine if they will reject resistance, rebellion, and death, embracing instead the eternal Life God offers to each one who will follow the Savior through the door into His sheepfold. And, in the context of the thematic focus of this writing, the millennium is the fulfillment of Succoth, the autumn festival that commemorates the future time when every man will be under his own vine and fig tree – and the prophets are replete with passages that envision those days of true peace and security, without walls.
Christians ought to be convinced that John’s scroll is a true witness, and for a whole constellation of reasons. First, it weaves into virtually a seamless tapestry a vast array of prophetic passages that point to the stages in God’s plan to eliminate iniquity and usher in everlasting righteousness (Dan. 8), thereby establishing the kingdom. And thus it does actually reveal the spiritual fulfillment of all of those things written in the historical travail of Israel.
Second, in so far as the appointed times of God, the moedim, or feasts, give us a shadow of things to come, which are intricately linked with the body of Christ, soma Christou, likewise Revelation fleshes out the fulfillment of those feasts from Passover to the Last Great Day. The remarkable gift of this precisely matching correspondence provides God’s people with a more accurate knowledge of the unfolding order and timing of the fulfillment of the salvation plan and how God will accomplish the solution of that thorniest of existential and theological challenges, the theodicy question, viz. the vindication of divine goodness and providence in view of the existence of evil.
Perhaps the most profound treasure of the book of Revelation, though it seems less often discussed than other features, is the superbly elegant fashion it reveals the way in which justice and righteousness are accomplished and the presence of evil is purged from the midst of God and the righteous ones, both those in Heaven as well as those on earth. It is a process, the culmination of a very long history, and the delivery of promises made by the Creator to His people.
The question to consider in the present writing is this: if God’s ‘appointed times’ are a shadow of things to come, and John’s scroll unveils the things to come, then wouldn’t reading Revelation in light of the Sabbaths and feasts give the reader a more accurate knowledge of God and His plan of salvation? Further, wouldn’t it also give to those living in the last days, a clearer idea of what actually is to come and what is expected of them at that time? It is a book written for those who live through it, and more specifically perhaps for the Elect, those who are His bond-servants. [See paper on the Elect and The Mystery of God]
To provide a secular witness to what is being said here, just note what Encyclopedia Britannica observed concerning early Christian observation of these appointed times as commemorations of things to come:
“The first Christians continued to observe the Jewish festivals [i.e. God’s Festivals], though in a new spirit, as commemorations of events which those festivals had foreshadowed” ~ (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th ed., vol. 8, p. 828).
More need not be said, it is a fact of history which historians have recorded, as well as a truth of Scripture (Acts, as but one example) to which the faithful testified.
Christendom’s Stewardship of this Teaching
Christendom has been the steward of this most amazing book Apocalypsis (which we call Revelation), an entire volume of prophecy revealed, one that is keyed into all of the old testament prophets, and shows the actual fulfillment of their prophecies. But the Church has not been a good steward of this oracle, much as Israel was not a good steward of the oracles of God. It is most likely due to the mystery of lawlessness that has been at work since the first century C.E. when Paul wrote the Thessalonians about his concerns with what he saw. And now that the whole lump is nearly full of that leaven, we are driven to conclude that the end time House of Israel just cannot look at itself in the proper light, and for that reason is not truly willing to look at what is actually taking place in the years circumscribed within the book. But then, how can that be expected, when the book was written for the bond-servants of God, to show them what must soon take place – not written for worldly citizens who try to mingle the sacred and the profane, as if light and darkness could have fellowship with each other.
Yet, there has been some remarkable agreement regarding Apocalypsis, for example in the first century and succeeding centuries during which the canon was being gathered, formed, and established. Oddly, more bishops were agreed on the canonicity of Revelation than just about any other book in the New Testament. Unfortunately, all too many Christians and pretended claimants to a teaching office have done their teaching on Revelation, written their commentaries, or preached their sermons all focused on earthly fulfillments of the words of the prophecy, on physical correspondences, on historical events. In this writing we shall examine the spiritual movements that lead to tremendous changes in the cosmos and the world system.
Witness how these false teachers betray God Almighty, who is the Creator of all things, by laying the groundwork for belief that Satan, the adversary, is somehow other than the instrument of God to accomplish His ends. He is but a tool in God’s hand. The perspective put forth in this writing is that just as this revelation was given by God to Jesus Christ, to give to His bond-servant John to show His bond-servants what would quickly take place (Rev. 1:1), so the reader must read the text, at least partly, from the perspective of God, namely: it is the Heavenly events, the most Holy moments, the scenes where God and His congregation are gathered in holiness, that are the cause of the earthly events which are but a consequence. And it is those Divine convocations and movements of the Spirit of God which manifest both the critical objectives Daniel wrote of in the quote above (Dan. 9:24) as well as the High Sabbaths, the appointed times, moedim, (cf. Lev. 16, 23, et al.) which celebrate these Most Holy moments in Heaven and their shadows which fall upon earth as the consequences of those events.
The Inside of the Scroll
This inner key to Revelation, which links the High Sabbaths with the spiritual realization of various facets and phases of God’s plan, is so useful for the disciple to gain new understanding of God’s ways, and precisely how He will establish His kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven, “removing the wicked before the king,” so that “his throne will be established in righteousness” (Prov. 25:5). This inner key indicates there are ways God can read from His perspective which are not seen by man, to wit Revelation 5:1.
And I saw in <lit. ‘upon’> the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and behind, sealed up with seven seals. (Rev. 5:1)
Perhaps one of the most puzzling and infrequently spoken 0f verses in Revelation is this description of the scroll in God’s hand. Is the backside seen by anyone but God and the Lamb? It appears that the reader is shown the open portion as the Lamb of God opens the seals and unrolls the scroll, while the backside remains hidden. Without doubt this great volume written wholly by the finger of God (cf. Ode of Solomon 23:19) is deeper than can be fully understood at this time.
It could be that by looking at unfolding worldly events from the Heavenly perspective, seeing them as proceeding as a consequence of Holy moments in God’s presence, we may see additional features hidden from the view of most readers. Certainly, when one opens a scroll and reads it, the backside is not seen, but the inside is read. What realizations by the spirit of truth might enable us to read the backside of the scroll?
The Order of Salvation
Beginning with the aim of this writing, to show a hidden structure or frame to John’s text, a structure based upon the High Sabbaths of God, those which were revealed by the Logos to Moses, we can explore the fundamental purpose of this revelation in terms of delivering to the bond-servants of God things which actually must come to pass. That is, there is a certain necessary ordering for salvation to be accomplished, and it is a plan that begins with the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the One who begins the entire salvation process with the sacrifice of Himself.
In examining the order of events that must occur, we can receive deeper understanding about what God and Christ have to do to deliver sons of God from Sin and Death. And that contains the key to the hidden structure of the scroll which must be hung upon the Plan that pre-existed the world. This makes Revelation a microcosm of the whole process of history, cosmic and terrestrial, just as one should expect in a fractal universe.
After an introductory message, something which serves as a prologue, an address to the seven churches in Asia Minor, but really stretches across time into the final part of the days and speaks to seven congregations that appear more as mindsets aka jurisdictional districts (Ode 23:15) than as geographically located church settings. Each of the seven congregations, referred to as ‘lampstands,’ show an allegiance to Christ that varies in its love and faithfulness. It is Philadelphia alone that seems to have won the crown of life already (cf. James 1:12) by remaining steadfast under tribulation. And it is only before Philadelphia that the door into Heaven appears open (cf. Rev. 4:1) with no one who can shut it.
That the book appears to contain two distinct sections within a 7 year tribulation has long been known by biblical scholars, and the message to John in chapter 10 that he must prophesy again to nations and tribes and tongues and peoples is a sober reminder that after the two witnesses are done prophesying to the house of God (cf. 1 Peter 4:17) and judgment has proceeded on God’s own house, then comes the judgment of the nations, and this is foreseen in chapter 11. Moreover, there is another section after the cosmos disappears, and that is the time after sun and moon time has passed away and there is a new heaven and a new earth. This is subsequent to the millennial kingdom of Christ, naturally, which is a thousand year period that exists almost as a footnote in Revelation. As a side bar, you may simply wonder why that is, and the short answer is that all of the superb poetry written about the kingdom of God on earth with His Messiah ruling was already recorded by some of the best poets in the history of the world, with Isaiah standing head and shoulders above the crowd. His “gospel of the old testament” gives multiple visions of the end days including quite florid descriptions of life in peace and security after the nations have been judged.
If then, we can assert that this period of living “under vine and fig tree” is an apt description of life in the millennium and that the millennial kingdom would be the spiritual fulfillment of living in booths, Succoth, then we can fix the last two of the seven High Sabbaths at a time subsequent to the judgment of the nations (Rev. 13-19). This leaves a basic framework of seven years that encompass the first five High Sabbaths which cover an agricultural motif of the harvest of humanity seen in two harvests: an early barley harvest which culminates in a festival of first fruits called Shavuot, or ‘Sevens,’ the Feast of Weeks. Subsequently, the main fall harvest occurs which is the larger wheat harvest, and that ends with the so-called ‘days of awe’ and the Festival of Booths when the harvest is done.
The header quote from Colossians provides a serious reminder that if Revelation shows the things to come as Christ Jesus states in the beginning of the book, and if Paul is correct about the Sabbaths and Festivals being similarly prophetic, then there must be harmonization between these two bodies of knowledge of God and the divine plan which He and His Beloved counseled to execute for the Elect, the angels, and for the broader community of Man, all of which are in need of salvation from the evils set in motion by the Adversary’s contemplation of the unthinkable.
The Fulfillment of the Festivals
And so we begin looking into the framework of Apocalypis, Revelation, by taking Paul seriously in his portrayal of the Sabbaths and Feast Days as a “shadow of things to come” and also as the Soma Christou, the body of Christ (Col 2:17). By returning to Leviticus 23 and accompanying sections of the Torah found in Numbers and Deuteronomy, and seeing confirming imagery in the poetry of the prophets, we can set definitive timing for the fulfillment of certain prophecies in the completion of Christ’s work to eliminate iniquity and bring in everlasting righteousness. This is the kind of knowledge of God (Hosea 4:6) which the Father and Christ would like us to have to be prepared to remain faithful and steadfast, aka ‘endure’, to the end.
As an extra benefit, the events we behold which are yet to come will further illuminate our observance of the High Holy Days, the seven annual High Sabbaths, which are especially holy times for Israel historically, and for that reason should commemorate especially holy Heavenly moments and the corresponding historical consequences in the physical domain. We can take worship cues from the book of Revelation which also serves as a worship guide to begin to prepare for holy worship of God and the Lamb in the post-apocalyptic season of the millennium and then after heaven and earth have fled from before the face of the One on the throne. Many want to speculate, or design, or create rituals, or seek out Messianic congregations to determine how we are to worship the festivals in these days of the Messiah, when He already gave us the Word in Col. 2 that it is the true Body of Christ that is to judge the observance of festivals. Isn’t it more fitting that God, in His infinite goodness and wisdom, would have given us the signs in Revelation, cues we may take from Christ, the 24 Elders, and the holy angels?
Leviticus 23 begins with Passover – not a High Sabbath – but a special feast to be observed, followed by a seven-day festival, “The Feast of Unleavened.” This holy week of observance is laid upon the people as an obligation for all able-bodied men of Israel to be present in Jerusalem. Thus, the city was full as Jesus rode into the holy city by donkey on the Sabbath. The first and last days of this festival are High Sabbaths and special days of observance with no laborious work to be performed. And within that seven-day observance, there is another day that is not technically a Sabbath, but a day to be observed on the first day after the weekly Sabbath that falls inside of Unleavened. It is called the “wave sheaf offering,” and it was on that first day morning that the priests would wave the first fruits of the barley harvest, the first mature sheave, before the presence of the Lord, YHWH.
For the details on “Unleavened” it would be helpful to see our writing titled The Feast of Unleavened. For what is critical here is the alignment of the most holy days with events in Heaven and on earth that stand out. It is after the introduction and the address to the bond-servants of Christ in the seven churches, that we can witness a very Holy moment in Heaven, in the presence of God Himself, and His 24 elders, and His 4 Living Beings, and myriads of angels. The holiness is underscored by the music which the assembly sings, day and night,
Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God, the Almighty
Who was and who is and who is to come. (Rev. 4:9, ff. cf. Isa. 6:3)
And as the Lamb approaches the throne to receive the scroll (ch. 5), with the authority to open its seals, again the holy throng bows, but to the Lamb this time, and they sing
“Worthy are thou to receive the scroll
And to open the seals thereof,
For thou was slain, and didst redeem for God by thy blood,
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
And made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
And they will reign upon the earth.”
And I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living beings and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying [singing] with a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain,
To receive power and riches and wisdom and might
And honor and glory and blessing.”
And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying,
“To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb,
Blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”
And the four living beings kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped. (Rev. 5:9-14)
And we have been gracefully treated to a taste of things to come via a window into Heaven and a vision into worship in the congregation of God (cf. Ps. 82). The music and praise by the holiest of God’s creatures is beyond what words can express. And the reader should pay attention to the fact that this is the first view into the Heavenly Congregation (Heb. 12:22-24) with the angels and elders gathered in worship.
Might this be a moment called for to be commemorated by our own Holy Days appointed by God? As Christ opens the first seal in the presence of the Holy, the divine Word is prepared to be read. And though it might not be apparent at first read, I want to say that the first and seventh seal bookend a period of seven that is like unto the seven days of Unleavened. Thus, in the first and seventh seals, can be seen the prophetic fulfillment of the first and seventh days of Unleavened, shadows of things to come.
In fulfillment of the prophetic aspect of unleavened, namely keeping leaven out of the House of Israel, we will see in that seven seal period, a time when leaven is removed from God’s House, while the Elect exhibit walking without sin! The first day is a Sabbath the day after Passover. The Lamb has been sacrificed – and actually since the foundation of the world; see our posting Passover – The Everlasting Covenant – and now He will conclude His New Covenant and judge His Church, purifying them (see the Daniel citation at the top) for delivery out of this valley of the shadow of death (Ps.23).
From within this week a count is begun, namely seven Sabbaths and a day, or fifty days, i.e. Pentecost, which falls on a Sunday (first day of the week) and looks forward to fulfillment in another sequence of divine events which ensue from a Heavenly moment.
But before we get to the next High Sabbath, Shavuot, which has commonly been called the Feast of Weeks, we have to finish our spiritual passage through unleavened. Now the Feast of Unleavened was ‘ostensibly’ initiated because of the exodus out of Egypt and the people of Israel needing to take things on the run and not to have any leaven. But, then, why the prohibition? What is ‘leaven’? If we understand that leaven symbolizes sin, and see just how the festivals look forward more as much as backward, then the language of Daniel’s seventy week prophecy addressing sealing up sins and restraining the transgression becomes very pertinent during the tribulation period of Revelation.
Now, each day of the seven days of Unleavened was observed with a burnt offering according to the words which God gave to Moses, and it is again evident that in the period of the seven seals there are many offerings by fire, as it were. But the first and the last days are High Sabbaths.
And we can confirm the reality of these days of a restful odor to the Lord by seeing the commonality of the first and last seals. This in turn, will help us hard link the timing of the unfolding of prophecy in the Tribulation.
There is an inclusio – a Greek term for a bookended literary feature where something from the beginning of a unit is repeated at the end – between Revelation 5:8 and Revelation 8:4-5. This literary feature ties the two moments together as having a common underlying unity. The incense in golden bowls and censers, with the prayers of the holy ones, tells us that these are holy moments together. Any sin or leaven in the end time House of Israel, God’s circumcised of heart people, is being removed. Other common features include myriads of angels, and of course Christ Himself.
The opening of the seventh seal evinces a most holy moment, with silence in Heaven for “about half an hour.” There is a sense of awe and holiness that opens up in the text that goes beyond prosaic explanation. We cannot say what it means, but that it is meaningful we can definitely assert. It is a serious and somber time and both of the following quotes from the prophets speak of a time when He comes to judge the nations. They speak of these end days of the present age when fire will be poured out for purification.
But YHWH is in His holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before Him. (Habakkuk 2:20)
Be silent, all flesh, before YHWH, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling. (Zech. 2:13)
The theme of Unleavened is certainly purification and sanctification and the seven-day festival requires an offering by fire each day. And as if to confirm the fiery motif, this seventh seal brings fire from the altar of God which is poured out on the earth. How reminiscent of the Lord’s own words recorded by Luke and here fulfilled.
“I came to cast fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled.” (Luke 12:49)
The seven trumpets within the seventh seal now complete a fractal scaling where that fire is repeated throughout the days of the trumpets. The ‘offerings by fire’ known in Leviticus are now manifest in major earth-shattering events that shake the heavens as well and proceed from divine moments in the temple in Heaven.
To recap the meaning of the Feast of Unleavened historically in its physical setting and the corresponding spiritual fulfillment of the Feast, namely the things that will come, it was about leaving Egypt in Egypt – see our paper The Gods of Egypt. The gods of Egypt, all of the sin of Israel was to be left behind. The leaven, or yeast was to be kept out of each house for seven days, symbolizing life without sin. But in our time, we will be brought by God to the point of having all the sin removed from our spiritual house, the temple of spirit within us, and so our memorial of this feast needs to center on that reality.
The first day of the Feast of Unleavened begins with the Lamb of God, our Passover Lamb, who is worthy to open the scroll and as you can see in the reference above, He has redeemed first-born by His blood out of all peoples and made them a kingdom and priests to our God. So, Unleavened is about the spiritual journey that takes and keeps leaven, or sin, out of our house. No more idols are allowed, and belief in God, trust in all His words, becomes the norm.
The seventh day of Unleavened is underscored by the motif of fire with amazing events coming at the sound of the trumpets as they progressively move to in the end torment those who are not sealed by God and to kill by fire and smoke and brimstone one third of humanity.
And in the nested fractal pattern of sevens, as the seventh trumpet is about to sound the Mystery of God is complete. See our writing The Mystery of God and also The Woman Clothed with the Sun. These realities are in truth, one and the same, the Woman as the body of Christ, the Mystery of God, hidden inside the Logos from the foundation of the world as Eve was in Adam.
Returning to the foundations the Logos laid down in the Torah for the next High Sabbath we come again to Shavuoth, which is known as Feast of Weeks, and as First Fruits, because the first fruits of the harvest are offered to God, just as the first-born of God’s people are to be redeemed to Him, or purchased from the earth (Rev. 14:4). Regarding this Feast, both Judaism and Christianity have been all over the map trying to make a stab at what the spiritual significance might be. Many, including quite a few in the Sabbatarian community and also in the so-called Hebrew Roots movement have understood this High Sabbath to pertain to the first harvest of humanity and they are right as far as they go. More can be added from scripture to what they have concluded, and the reader can look at our writing Shavuot.
Others mistakenly have attributed the first fruits to the resurrection of Christ, warranted by the idea that he is “the first fruits” of them that sleep. This displays ignorance of the simple historical fact that He arose on the day of the wave sheaf offering, thus manifesting the spiritual reality of that observance, since He was First of the First Fruits, and thereby first in all things. Who then would be the rest of the First Fruits? It would have to be the Elect who were in Him – i.e. not manifested externally – when the foundations of the earth were laid.
God did not resurrect His Son 50 days later at the completion of the early barley harvest, but before the grain was ready for harvest. Even as the priests were waving the first sheaf of ripe grain before the Lord in the Temple, Christ Jesus Himself was appearing before God in person, at the throne, approved as the first of first fruits. Thus, God did not establish Shavuot to foreshadow the resurrection of Christ Jesus, but to typify the first fruits of those who realize His image and likeness and are His true body.
And since we already know that God and Christ designed these festivals with future spiritual events in mind, then it makes good sense to re-visit the iconic features of those ‘appointed times,’ and compare them to the fulfillment of the festival which appears spiritually linked with Revelation chapter 11.
John writes that the angel told him that just when the 7th angel is about to sound his trumpet, then the ‘Mystery of God’ is complete. And what comes just before this sounding? God calls up to Heaven the two witnesses – the two olive trees who stand beside the Lord of the world – and they are raised from death. An earthquake follows and in it 7000 “names of men” are slain. This puzzling turn of phrase, by its strangeness and unique usage in all the New Testament, calls out for deeper examination. And it is a bit earlier in chapter 7, during an Heavenly interlude that bypasses the temporal sequence, that the reader sees both those sealed with the name of God in their forehead, and another great crowd that has come off faithfully from the great tribulation, and it is these two great camps that are one in their unity in God, and form as it were two groups/loaves (Lev. 23:17-20) in the early harvest [the barley harvest in ancient Israel].
So that by the time the 7th trumpet comes round, it appears that the two witnesses and the final ‘numbered’ 7000 should fill up the full number and be the completion of the grain sacrifice aka ‘grain harvest.’ This happens only in accordance with Daniel’s prophecy recorded in 9:27:
And he will make a firm covenant with many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, on that is poured out on the one who causes horror.
But who is the ‘he’ referring to? The previous verse refers to Messiah but this verse seems more focused on the actions of the ‘King of the North’ who will conclude a covenant with the nations that must include Israel, one that points to an ensuing event viz. the coming of the ‘desolator.’ There is a peculiar openness in the language of “sacrifice and grain offering,” and it demands keen insight to grasp the intended meaning or meanings. The sacrifice indicates the ‘false covenant’ would allow Israel to renew their sacrifices to their God, with or without a temple – it is not specified, and contrary to popular belief, it does not appear clear whether or not a physical temple will actually be built prior to the return of Christ – it could be the spiritual temple of God’s people. The end of the ‘grain offering’ is shown with the completion of the Mystery of God and the calling up of the witnesses. And following this middle of the week, i.e. three and a half years into the tribulation, comes the ‘Destroyer’ who is pictured in just a few verses as the dragon cast down out of Heaven, ‘on the wing’ of those other abominations that come with him. This is the third woe.
The ‘grain offering’ is part of the sacrifice typology that most of Christian exegesis has been unable to translate into spiritual meaning for the deeper content of what God wanted to display as the shadow of things to come (Col. 2:16-17). It is simpler than most would think. Grain is the produce of the harvest, the spring barley harvest which culminates in Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, and the autumn wheat harvest which ends with Succoth. The law of the grain offerings was recorded in Leviticus chapter 2, and it pictures fine flour and oil offered up in smoke to the Lord – note that leaven was absolutely prohibited to be offered up in smoke (Lev. 2:11). It is thus the grain, or harvest of humanity, that is without leaven, namely sin, that can be received up in Heaven as a sweet smelling aroma. This is the sacrificial offering of God’s people which has now become a living sacrifice – provided it too, is without ‘leaven.’
It is important to remember that there is a daily grain offering along with a grain offering and libation that accompanies the various sacrifices of the set apart days. That daily sacrifice included a pure, unblemished lamb in the morning, and one in the evening, along with the grain offering and the libation, or wine poured. The sacramental meal of Christ is clear enough that it needs no further elucidation. He is our sacrificial lamb, the bread of His flesh being our unleavened food and the wine of the cup, His blood of the Covenant. Everything laid out by God to go forth and accomplish that for which He sent out His Word.
So we have a time-linked match between Daniel 9 and Revelation 11, a clear fulfillment of the prophetic festival, moed, ‘appointed time,’ given in Leviticus 23. There we see the wave offering of two pure, unblemished lambs, males, and two loaves simultaneously before the Lord’s presence in the Holy Place. And in Revelation we see the lifting up of the two witnesses and the two houses of God’s people, now one in the Body of Christ, namely Judah and Israel, which are seen in the Elect that are sealed and the great crowd. These two loaves are waved before God with the two lambs sacrificed as witnesses, and this completes the Mystery of God, thereby showing the Ark of the Covenant as visible in the temple in Heaven, the reality of the holy ones lifted up, having been sprinkled with the Blood of the Lamb, and made Holy. This wave offering is a match with the wave offering 50 days prior, the wave sheaf offering representing the resurrection of Christ and His appearance before the Father in Heaven. Now we see a wave offering of His body before God. They are likewise accepted.
Burnt offerings are made of 7 male lambs, a bull of the herd, and two rams (Lev. 23:18) and finally a male goat as a sin offering (Lev. 23:19). This typology relates to the prophetic word that the 7 congregations, the lampstands surrounding Christ, as well as the man of lawlessness, who is like a bull, leader of the herd, and the two rams who may well be his false prophets or witnesses, much like the two witnesses who are the lambs bearing witness to Christ.
Overview of the Seven High Sabbaths
To summarize the eschatological salvation history as we look forward, there are seven stages of the deliverance of humanity within the all-inclusive redemptive movement of Passover – with these seven as prophetic commemorations coded in the High Sabbaths, pre-figured in those holy convocations, and fulfilled in the events which Revelation portrays. In terms of observance, it is understood in the true Ekklesia of Christ, that all of these days are to be kept as days of complete rest with cessation of work and worldly activity, and this witnessed by the fourth commandment, the words of Christ, and Paul’s reminder to the Colossians, not to mention the historically documented activity of the early church according to the apostolic fathers like Polycarp and Melito of Sardis.
Before embarking on the journey to look into the seventh month commemorations in fine detail, it will prove useful to connect the seven High Sabbaths, with seven most holy moments as seen from the Heavenly Temple in John’s vision, shown to Him by Christ through the angel.
Passover – the Prelude implicit in all that transpires – the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8) has purchased with His blood the first fruits seen with the 144,000 in Revelation 14:4 and the great crowd which no one could number. This is the underlying prelude and not to be counted as a High Sabbath. It is rather the substance and reality of the entire plan of salvation. In the words of the Lord on the stake, “It is finished.”
The solemn moment in Heaven, before the throne of God, when the Holy living beings and twenty four Elders sing to the Lamb, is the first of these worship settings which John actually sees in Spirit in Heaven (Rev. 4-5). It is a consequence of Passover that the victorious One who has conquered, pictured here as a slain lamb, has proven worthy to receive the scroll from God seated on the throne.
It is truly profound that the consequence of the Passover sacrifice is the opening of 7 seals which culminate in the completion of the Mystery of God. Bear in mind that this is a spiritual reality and therefore it is a direct effect of the will of the Father and the victory of the Son, and not subject to any of the conditional realities of the physical heavens and earth, i.e. any created reality. With that said, we move from a Holy space within the throne room of God in Heaven and the Passover Event that is all encompassing, and is the implicit factor under all. For more on that read Passover – The Everlasting Covenant. Now, we can look at the other Heavenly settings in Revelation and understand how the Father decrees the events which are the spiritual realities behind the appointed High Sabbaths.
- Unleavened – the first day of the seven day feast corresponds with the opening of the first seal, which grants authority to the man of lawlessness, who will purge the church and purify the true members of the body of Christ, by drawing off all who have not a heart after God’s own heart. The entire week, here seen as seven seals in fulfillment of seven days, is characterized by great fire, as each day of the Hebrew Feast of Unleavened Bread had offerings by fire (Leviticus 23:7-8, Num 28:24). Revelation 5:8-6:2 permits us to see into a very Holy time and place in the presence of God on His throne, and His 24 Elders who give Him glory and worship Him, casting their crowns before the throne. When you read the words of their blessing and worship, you will see that all is, indeed, finished, from the Divine perspective. And the telos, or end goal of all is clearly proclaimed (Rev. 5:9-10), the Lamb has purchased men for God out of all peoples to be a kingdom and priests for God. The will reign upon the earth.
- Unleavened – completion of the festival (seventh day), a High Sabbath, appears in Revelation the holiness of silence as the seventh seal is opened (Rev. 8:1-4) and the beginning of the final, fiery purification of the Ekklesia, or Body of Christ, takes place by fire (Leviticus 23:8, Num 28:25). “And the smoke of the incense with the prayers of the holy ones, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.”
- Feast of Sevens – Shavuot, also known as First Fruits because it is the offering of the harvest and the first baked loaves are waved before God. Note: the same language is used for this day as for the Wave Sheaf Offering which links them from the beginning of the early barley harvest until the completion of it. The Wave Sheaf typifies Christ appearing before the Father upon His resurrection, while the First Fruits of Shavuot typifies the waving of the Elect – the two unblemished lambs sacrificed foreshadow the two witnesses – the First Fruits of Christ as His Body appears in Heaven before the Father with Him (cf. Rev. 14:4). In this unfolding of spiritual events, the sevens show the confluence of the seven seals with the seven trumpets, leading to the completion of the Mystery of God – Christ and His body – the Elect raised to Heaven as Living Stones, just as the two witnesses fly up. “And the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.” (Rev. 11:13) This is a High Sabbath, the rest of Heaven, for those who are raised to Eternal Life, both the 2 witnesses, along with the 7000 who complete the 144,000 gathered from the ends of the heavens and the earth.
- Day of Trumpets – Yom Teruah has been poorly understood in the circles of Jews and Christians alike, the principal reason being that central images in the Scriptures have been left out of consideration. A key example is Second Chronicles 5:2 ff., where King Solomon gathers the entire congregation of Israel to Jerusalem for the bringing of the Ark to the Temple for the Feast, “that is the seventh month.” Clearly, this refers to the Day of Trumpets and subsequent Holy Days, particularly as Solomon has 120 trumpets (2 Chr 5:12) blowing. Paul saw the last trump as the gathering of those in Heaven and the dead along with glorification of the living – transformed in the twinkling of an eye. Trumpets corresponds to the completion of the Mystery of God, likewise the completion and dedication of the Temple of Solomon, which now is seen in the people of God, the temple of the Holy Spirit. For a detailed exposition of the Day of Trumpets see Day of Trumpets. Close comparison of the descriptive details in Chronicles and in Revelation 11 shows that John’s vision reveals what Solomon’s Temple Dedication foreshadowed. The ark visible in the temple is now seen as the Ark visible in the Heavenly Temple. And if the Mystery of God is now complete (Rev. 10:7), what then is the Ark, but the Holy Ones, upon whom the blood of the Covenant has been sprinkled (cf. Heb. 9:23). Revelation 11:15-19 allows us to peer into a most holy moment before the throne of God, where once more the twenty-four Elders fall upon their faces before God. And the announcement of the coming wrath of God and the judgment upon the nations gives us the spiritual fulfillment of what the rabbinical authorities have termed “the days of awe,” which proceed from the Day of Trumpets. Though their understanding was limited regarding just how awesome those days will be, Revelation 16-19 make it clear that the wrath of God has come at last.
- Day of Atonement – Kipporim, or coverings, this is actually the great and terrible day of the Lord, a time of humbling and is seen in the judgment of the nations, all those gathered against Jerusalem (Rev. 19, Zech. 13, 14). The imagery in Leviticus is graphically prophetic as it points to the very fulfillments which John records in Revelation 19:20-20:3. This section of John’s vision reveals at last the hidden inner meaning of Atonement, so cryptically laid out in type in the priestly ordinances and sacrifices prescribed in Leviticus 16. When the reader compares vv. 5-33 with Revelation 15-19, all of the details match up. The smoke filling the sanctuary and no one entering, the burnt offering of bull and goat, to match with the beast and false prophet cast into the lake of fire, and the other goat taken by a rope into the wilderness [just as Satan is led by a chain into the abyss], it becomes clear that the great sacrifice of the enemies of the throne does actually make an atoning for the Holy Place, just as Daniel 9:24 prophesied would occur in the 70 week prophecy, viz. “anoint the Most Holy”. Again, very solemn and holy moments in Heaven with a fourfold Hallelujah announce “His judgments are true and righteous, for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and He has avenged the blood of His servants on her.” (Rev. 19:2) In this scene from Heaven, the twenty-four elders and four living beings fall down and worship God on the throne. There is a throng of voices accompanying the proclamation and recognition of His Divine reign. The glorious doxology gives way to announcement of the marriage supper of the Lamb, which in turn opens heaven and brings forth Christ with His host, and in a scenario remarkably reminiscent of Isaiah 63, “The Word of God” “treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty” (Rev. 19:15). And it is then revealed that the “great supper of God” is the slaughter of the kings, with commanders and mighty men furnishing the flesh for the birds which fly in midheaven. This Holy Day known as Yom Kipporim has been so universally misconstrued by Christians and Jews alike, to the end that few have ever commemorated it for the reasons which God appointed it.
- Feast of Booths – Succoth, aka Feast of Tabernacles, is widely recognized as a prophetic foreshadowing of the millennium, and the first day of the festival is a High Sabbath. In Revelation, the reader sees that the one thousand year reign of Christ on earth begins with thrones and a judgment and a resurrection of the dead for those who died in testimony to Christ and glorification for those who did not take the mark of the Beast or worship its image. This time means dwelling in the field in another foreshadowing of Heaven, as the faithful finally experience the arrival of God’s “kingdom come on earth, as it is in Heaven.” The words, “this is the first resurrection,” key the reader into the fulfillment of a multitude of prophecies surrounding the entry into eternal rest, by those who receive that Eternal Life. It is the Eternal Sabbath, and thus, shows us the complete spiritual fulfillment of one of the shadows cast in the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, itself a High Sabbath. The remaining days of the Feast, with Israel living out in the field in booths, fulfilling the words of the prophet Hosea (12:9) – “I will make you live in tents again, as in the days of the appointed festival (moed).” So much is written about the millennium in the prophets, with visions of the temple work in Ezekiel, and of the regeneration of the earth and humanity in Isaiah and others, it really cries out for new exposition in light of what we now know. He will renew the face of the earth (Psalm 104:30) and all things will be made new. Look for a special writing on this festival which is planned to be penned by the eve of this fall season.
- The Last Great Day – This seventh High Sabbath bridges the final day of the cosmos, just before the disappearance of heaven and earth before the throne of God, because no place was found for them (Rev. 20:11) with the “great white throne judgment,” a day which is neither day nor night because there is no sun nor moon. It is a transitional period after which the new heaven and earth appear and the holy city Jerusalem comes down out of heaven as a bride adorned for her husband. (Rev. 21:2) The offering by fire central to the sacrifice for this final holy day of the year shows both the destruction of the Adversary in the lake of fire (the goat from Num 29:35-38 as the sin offering), with the bull, the ram, and the seven male lambs as burnt offerings, with bull and ram representing those whose names are not written in the book of life, and are pictured going into the lake of fire, which is the second death (Rev. 20:13-15). The bull and the ram may also in some sense typify Death and Hades which go into the lake of fire. Death and Hades, who were pictured as riders in Revelation 6, and are offspring, so to speak, of the Adversary, may also turn out to be angelic princes who do not repent and do not become reconciled to God. The lambs without blemish, on the other hand, should be seen as those sacrifices who can pass through the fire, since they are transcribed to life.
In contemplating the spiritual realities which the scriptures are describing, the reader needs to be careful to grasp the qualitative differences between God and His creation; and these differences pertain to both being and action. When God does something spiritual, it is done, even if a time-lag remains in the earth and it would appear something is yet to occur. Such is the case with the events in Revelation, which are decreed, and remain to occur in a historical and material sense; and even with the foundational event of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, which happened in reality before the cosmos was created, but remains to fully materialize with the deliverance from sin and death.
A perfect example of this “already and not yet” reality is the kingdom. Christ established the kingdom, else how could Paul truthfully declare to the Colossians: “He has delivered us from the authority of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.” (Col. 1:13) How could we be seated with Christ in the Heavenly places? Christ is ruling over His enemies, and the world will see just how He will use Babylon as a cup within His hand to cause the nations to reel with drunkenness (Jer.51:7).
Such scriptures are sober reminders that the spiritual reality can exist contemporaneously with the physical and therefore our life is multi-dimensional, and that no matter what we see in the physical domain, something else is going on and that wisdom would dictate that we keep our minds fixed on that reality. We are to see with the eyes of faith, looking not to the things which appear but to the things we cannot see (2 Cor. 4:18).
If we are obsessing about world events on earth, then not only do we ignore the commandment from Paul in Col. 3:1-4, but we risk losing our inheritance by falling into fear and losing the Spirit which is driven out by fear. Rather, let perfect Love cast out all the fear.(1 John 4:18)
Epilogue to Salvation History
After all of this comes the wedding feast – that which is pictured in Matt. 22:1-14 can only fit in one place in the book of Revelation, and that is after the city is burned, Revelation 18, after all are invited from the highways and byways, both good and evil, and after the Bride is revealed, which is Revelation 21. The exclusion of those not dressed in deeds of righteousness [fine linen-the deeds of the holy ones] shown in chapter 22 is a clue that the wedding feast is the last thing that comes after all of the ‘appointed times’ have been fulfilled.
To those who want to claim that the wedding of the Lamb comes during the period of Tribulation, or during any other time prior to the end, simply ask yourself if the conditions of the parable are fulfilled before the city comes down. Ask yourself how there can be a wedding feast before the bride is complete and revealed, and shown in all her glory. Finally, ask yourself who the bride is and why these things must be completed before she is shown in the glory of God. For much more on this subject you may want to read our very provocative writing “The Woman Clothed with the Sun.”
The joy of the unity between Bridegroom and Bride cannot be experienced while conflict reigns. And it cannot be shared with those who are not friends of the Bridegroom. All who turn down the invitation and all who are not dressed appropriately cannot be admitted.
In an interesting literary turn of events, John begins the miracles of Jesus in his gospel with the water changed to wine at the wedding feast. And he ends the great vision we know as Revelation with the wedding of the Lamb and His Bride. It is here in this vision of total unity in the Spirit in Heaven, that we may possibly understand just why the morning stars sang as one and the Sons of God rejoiced when the foundations of the earth were laid (Job 38:7). The Sons of God well knew what Isaiah said:
So shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing I sent. (Isaiah 55:11)
The Sons of God knew God, namely that He is a God of Faithfulness, and accomplishes all that He wills. John’s vision at the end of Revelation shows us the lost unity, that for which God has been seeking (Eccl. 3:15), shall be realized in the end.
The novelty of this new lens into Revelation, perceiving the deep structure within the text, grants insight to the reader that goes beyond the words of the text. For the pillars of the structure as fulfillments of the most holy days of the year, actually conveys to those days greater depth of meaning for the faithful, and shines a light on why it is so important to God that His people keep these days holy. God is delivering Man from sin and death, and it is His activity we are to commemorate. He has sanctified those days because they point to His Holy acts to fulfill His promises according to His grand Plan. In keeping those appointed times, we acknowledge all that He does for us in Love, and we worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.