Israelite Celebrations

A Prophetic Perspective of Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Hanukkah

Article by Bill Petri

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, which means "Day of Atonement," occurs on the tenth day of the Jewish month of Tishri (September-October), the seventh month in the Jewish calendar. It was and is the supreme Jewish "holy day," the time of national atonement for sin. Originally it was the time when, once a year, the high priest, and the high priest alone, very briefly entered the Holy of Holies with the blood of the sin offering for himself and for Israel (see Lev.16; 23:27-32).


Lev 16:15 Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat:


During this holy period, fasting was mandatory from the evening of the ninth day through the evening of the tenth. God declared that:


Lev 16:30 For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD.


On this day the slaughtered goat was a symbolic offering for the true sacrifice for sin that Jesus Christ made once for all when He offered Himself (Heb.7:27).


Speaking of the end times and the end of Israel's sins, the angel Gabriel declares to Daniel:


Dan 9:24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.


If any one day of the end times could prophetically represent the Day of Atonement for Israel, it would be the last day of the seventieth week, when, as the Book of Daniel reveals, her transgression will be finished, her sins ended, and her iniquity dealt with. This then would have to be the day that God's hostility against her will end, because she will have made amends for her iniquity.


Lev 26:41 And that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity:


It is perfectly consistent with Scripture that certain events associated with Christ's coming will therefore correspond to and fulfill Yom Kippur, just as His crucifixion climaxing His first coming corresponded to and fulfilled the Passover. This fact does not set the date for Christ's return - no man knows the day or the hour - but it does reveal the timing of the end of the seventieth week in relation to Yom Kippur.


The end of the seventieth week, and therefore Yom Kippur, will occur 2520 days (seven prophetic years of 360 days each) from the date that Israel signs the covenant with hell and death at the beginning of that final week.


Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles)

Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths), always begins five days after Yom Kippur, on the fifteenth day of Tishri, and is one of three feasts that was required to be observed in Jerusalem. Originally lasting for seven days, this festival celebrated two events. First, it was a remembrance of God's protection of a surviving remnant of Israel during the forty years of wilderness wandering after He delivered His people from Egypt. The name of the feast is derived from the fact that it was celebrated in simple tabernacles, or booths, and was meant to remind God's people of His faithfulness, deliverance, protection, and provision during those nomadic years of hardship.


Second, Sukkot celebrated the end of the harvest, as the people gathered and stored the grain and other produce God had provided for them. For that reason it was often called the Feast of Ingathering. Although the figure of harvest is frequently used in Scripture of God's judgment, it is also used of His blessing, particularly in relation to the salvation of the nation after they have atoned for their sin.


Through the pen of the prophet Hosea, God gave His people (Israel), the clearly eschatological promise:


Hos 6:11 Also, O Judah, he hath set an harvest for thee, when I returned the captivity of my people.


As just noted, Sukkot occurs five days after Yom Kippur. It represents the dual celebrations of God's deliverance of Israel from their affliction in Egypt and of His provision of the harvest (near-term physical, far-term spiritual), and it is celebrated in Jerusalem (on Mt. Zion). It is surely more than coincidental that those central aspects of Sukkot perfectly parallel the events of the fifth day after the end of the seventieth week, when Christ will ascend Mount Zion after the salvation of the remnant of Israel that survives the horrors of Antichrist's great tribulation.


Additionally, Psalm 118, the psalm sung when Christ and the 144,000 ascend Mount Zion together on the fifth day after the conclusion of the seventieth week, is the great psalm of ascension always sung on Sukkot, five days after Yom Kippur.


Psalm 118 was specifically sung by Jews in the celebration of Sukkot as they traveled to the top of Mount Zion - hence its designation as a psalm of ascent or ascension. Although this feast was associated with Israel's wilderness deliverance and with the ingathering of the harvest, Psalm 118 itself does not directly focus on those two things.


The first four verses express general adoration and praise for the Lord's eternal loving-kindness. The next five (5-9), acknowledge Him as the only true place of safety in time of distress - which refers equally as well to Israel's wilderness sojourn as to the second half of the seventieth week, (hence, the wanderings are the Old Testament type to the second half of the seventieth week). Verses 10-14 praise the Lord for His deliverance from Israel's enemies - which obviously relate to Israel's deliverance from persecution at the hands of Antichrist and his ten-nation, eighth-beast empire. The next four verses (15-18) give thanks for His severe but loving discipline of His people Israel, again paralleling the Day-of-the-Lord refinement of Israel when Malachi 3:3 comes to pass.


Mal 3:3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.


It is however, the next six verses that seem to be of special importance in relation to the last half of the seventieth week.


Psa 118:19 Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the LORD:

Psa 118:20 This gate of the LORD, into which the righteous shall enter.

Psa 118:21 I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation.

Psa 118:22 The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.

Psa 118:23 This is the LORD'S doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.

Psa 118:24 This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.


The above passage does not relate to the physical deliverance of the nation of Israel, but clearly pertains to her spiritual salvation, when "the stone which the builders [Israel] refused is become the head stone of the corner [Christ]."


When Christ ascends Mount Zion, the firstfruits who accompany Him will be the redeemed remnant of Israel, singing, as never before, that magnificent psalm. Thus, when that final Sukkot is celebrated, Psalm 118 will be sung as a song of thanksgiving to God for His protection during the last half of the seventieth week; a song of gratitude to God for His deliverance from Israel's enemies during the great tribulation; a song of thanksgiving for His severe but loving discipline during the Day of the Lord; and a song of praise to God for His successful harvest (salvation) of the nation (vv.19-24) by her Savior and King, the "head corner stone" (v.22).


This is the glorious day that the Lord promised through Hosea 6:11.



Hanukkah, the Feast of Lights, also called the Feast of the Dedication, is observed in the month of Kislev (November-December), exactly seventy-five days after Yom Kippur and seventy days after the beginning of Sukkot. Hanukkah is not a biblically prescribed feast, but it is perfectly consistent with Scripture, has clear prophetic implications, and has been celebrated by Israel for well over two thousand years.


Through the burning of candles representing the return of the glory of God to their holy temple, this feast celebrates an event that occurred in the second century B.C., nearly three hundred years after the last book of the Old Testament was written and almost two hundred years before the writing of the first New Testament book. Perhaps for that reason it is not mentioned in Scripture. It was, however, an essential element in the religious life of the Jews in the time of Christ (see John 10:22).


Christ Himself referred to this important feast when He told the scribes and Pharisees, in the context of the Feast of Lights (Hanukkah), that He was the "light of the world" (John 8:12). The feast is still of great importance to Jews today.

Hanukkah commemorates Israel's deliverance from Antiochus Epiphanes (the Old Testament type of Antichrist) by Judas Maccabaeus, including the restoration of the temple and the purification of the altar which had been profaned by Antiochus when he committed the first abomination of desolation by sacrificing swine flesh on it.


The celebration of lights is directly associated with Hanukkah and the light that comes from the burning candles is a reminder to Israel of the eventual return of God's shekinah glory to the temple. Ultimately it looks forward to the day that the Messiah Himself will rebuild His temple, which will never be destroyed, and to the return of His shekinah glory that never again will depart.


Ezekiel was privileged to envision that return of God's glory to the temple:


Eze 43:2 And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory.

Eze 43:4 And the glory of the LORD came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east.

Eze 43:7 And he said unto me, Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever, and my holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoredom, nor by the carcases of their kings in their high places.


This is the grand and ultimate scene that Hanukkah depicts - the scene that will be fulfilled when Christ returns to Jerusalem to rule on the first day of the millennium, when the Lord will be King over all the earth.


Zec 14:9 And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.


As envisioned by John:


Rev 21:23 And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.


This glorious event will occur exactly seventy-five days after the completion of the seventieth week and exactly seventy days after Christ ascends to the top of Mount Zion accompanied by the firstfruits of Israel.


If you would like to see a chart which details the time frame of these Jewish Feast Days please look under our charts section. You will want to click on the chart titled Israelite Celebrations, or you may click here.


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