The ''Feast of Tabernacles'' is an 8-day Biblical pilgrimage festival, also known as the ''Feast of Booths,' the '''Feast of Tabernacles," or ''Tabernacles." In the 7th day Church of God groups it is one of the most important holy days as it lasts the longest and normally requires a great deal of preparation and travel to be able to attend. But it is normally the physical and spiritual highlight of the year for those that do observe it.
This article covers this subject from a Christian perspective and includes quotes from both the Old and New Testament.
The Hebrew Scriptures
The Hebrew scriptures discuss this Festival in many places.
Leviticus 23:33-43 states:
33 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 34 "Speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the Lord. 35 On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it. 36 For seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it. 37 'These are the feasts of the Lord which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire to the Lord, a burnt offering and a grain offering, a sacrifice and drink offerings, everything on its day — 38 besides the Sabbaths of the Lord, besides your gifts, besides all your vows, and besides all your freewill offerings which you give to the Lord. 39 'Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the Lord for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath-rest. 40 And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. 41 You shall keep it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. You shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 43 that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.'" (NKJV throughout, unless otherwise noted)
Christians have interpreted the statement about dwelling in booths to include temporary dwellings, hence most stay in hotels, motels, or tents to observe it today (and the idea that palm branch dwellings are not the only option is consistent with Leviticus 23:43). And the observe it on the same days that the Jews celebrate Sukkot (which is based on the same verses in the Hebrew Bible).
The Bible teaches that the children of Israel were to have offerings for every day of the Feast. And while we in the Continuing Church of God do take up offerings on the First Day of the Feast and the Last Great Day, we do not take up financial offerings on the other days. But one way for you to fulfill what God expects is for you to attend church services each day. Notice something that the Apostle Paul wrote:
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1-2)
Attending services each day is a way for you to offer yourself as a living sacrifice which is your reasonable service.
More information on this Feast is in the Hebrew scriptures, notice some others:
2 You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. 3 And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. 4 You shall not worship the Lord your God with such things.
5 "But you shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go. 6 There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. 7 And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the Lord your God has blessed you.
8 "You shall not at all do as we are doing here today — every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes — 9 for as yet you have not come to the rest and the inheritance which the Lord your God is giving you...
11 then there will be the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide. There you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, and all your choice offerings which you vow to the Lord. 12 And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates, since he has no portion nor inheritance with you. 13 Take heed to yourself that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every place that you see; 14 but in the place which the Lord chooses, in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you.
15 "However, you may slaughter and eat meat within all your gates, whatever your heart desires, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you; the unclean and the clean may eat of it, of the gazelle and the deer alike. 16 Only you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it on the earth like water. 17 You may not eat within your gates the tithe of your grain or your new wine or your oil, of the firstborn of your herd or your flock, of any of your offerings which you vow, of your freewill offerings, or of the heave offering of your hand. 18 But you must eat them before the Lord your God in the place which the Lord your God chooses, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your gates; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God in all to which you put your hands. 19 Take heed to yourself that you do not forsake the Levite as long as you live in your land. (Deuteronomy 12:2-9, 11-19)
Christians have cited the following passages from Deuteronomy 14:22-27 (which has similarities to chapter 12) to explain how this festival attendance should be financed and to show that others are to be assisted with this financing:
22 "You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. 23 And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. 24 But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the Lord your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the Lord your God has blessed you, 25 then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the Lord your God chooses. 26 And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household. 27 You shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you..
Most Christians who observe the Feast of Tabernacles save 10% of their income (normally referred to as second tithe or simply festival tithe) to finance this. They also point to those verses in Deuteronomy to show that they are to feast and rejoice during this time, which they feel points to the time when Jesus will reign on the Earth for a thousand years. A time they say will be filled with great prosperity--a glimpse of which they get when they spend approximately 10% of their annual income for an eight-day (plus travel time) festival (sometimes, portions of that 10% are used for the other biblical holy days).
Christians who observe this festival believe that part of the reason that there will be peace is that people will all be taught the law of God, as teaching the law of God was an important part of this feast during the days of the children of Israel:
10 And Moses commanded them, saying: "At the end of every seven years, at the appointed time in the year of release, at the Feast of Tabernacles, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. 12 Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the Lord your God and carefully observe all the words of this law, 13 and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God as long as you live in the land which you cross the Jordan to possess." (Deuteronomy 31:10-13).
Related to the reading of the law, an article of related interest may be The Feast of Tabernacles: A Time to Learn the Law.
Christians who observe this festival sometimes point to the following in Zechariah to show that this festival will be observed in the future (hence, they feel this is evidence that it has not been done away with):
16 And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. 17 And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, on them there will be no rain. 18 If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the Lord strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. 19 This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. (Zechariah 14:16-19)
So, since it is clear that the Feast of Tabernacles is to be kept in the future, hence this is another reason why Christians should be keeping it now (f0r more about Egypt, please check out the article Egypt in Prophecy).
The Feast of Tabernacles is to be kept every year (Zechariah 14:16; Deuteronomy 16:16).
Where is it to be kept? The Bible teaches "in the place which He chooses"? Since God does not physically speak the physical locations for every year, the responsibility for this falls on His ministry (cf. Leviticus 23:1,4,37). In modern times, generally this will be near the area where enough Christians live or can travel too. Here is a link to Feast of Tabernacles' Sites for 2013 from the Continuing Church of God.
While some falsely claim that the Feast of Tabernacles from the past through current times must only be kept in Jerusalem, this is in error as the children of Israel were not even in Jerusalem for centuries after the commands for its observance in Leviticus 23 were recorded--hence Jerusalem was not possibly an initial option for them. Furthermore, the Bible shows that the Feast of Tabernacles can be kept in cities other than Jerusalem (Nehemiah 8:15; cf. Deuteronomy 14:23-24).
The New Testament Examples
Christians point out that Jesus kept the Feast of Tabernacles. This is discussed in detail in John chapter 7:10-26:
10 But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. 11 Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, "Where is He?" 12 And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him. Some said, "He is good"; others said, "No, on the contrary, He deceives the people." 13 However, no one spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews. 14 Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught. 15 And the Jews marveled, saying, "How does this Man know letters, having never studied?" 16 Jesus answered them and said, "My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 17 If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. 18 He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him. 19 Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill Me?" 20 The people answered and said, "You have a demon. Who is seeking to kill You?" 21 Jesus answered and said to them, "I did one work, and you all marvel. 22 Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? 24 Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." John 7:25-27 25 Now some of them from Jerusalem said, "Is this not He whom they seek to kill? 26 But look! He speaks boldly, and they say nothing to Him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is truly the Christ?
The Apostle Paul, after the Christ's death and resurrection indicated that it was important to keep the Feast in Jerusalem--and this may have been the Feast of Tabernacles. As it is noted in Acts 18:21:
21 I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing.
Notice some statements from the Apostle Paul:
17...Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers (Acts 28:17)
4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. (Philippians 3:4-6)
Since Paul kept the customs of his people, he, too, kept all the Fall Holy Days including the Feast of Tabernacles. If not, he could not have made that statement which is in Acts 28:17 nor the one being blameless in the law in Philippians 3:4-6.
Paul taught Gentiles to follow him as he followed Jesus:
Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Jesus and Paul kept the feasts. Are you following their example?
Notice that Paul does commend those in Thessalonica for initiating the church in Judea:
13 For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe. 14 For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 2:13-14).
The church in Judea kept the Feast of Tabernacles, etc. And those in Thessalonica were commended for receiving the word of God and imitating the practices of the church in Judea.
Others Have Kept the Feast of Tabernacles
Polycarp of Smyrna apparently taught this about the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day:
What must one say, when even He that was gentler than all men so appeals and cries out at the feast of Tabernacles? For it is written; And on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried saying, If any man thirsteth, let him come to Me and drink (Pionius. Life of Polycarp, Chapter 19. Translated by J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 3.2, 1889, pp.488-506).
The Greco-Roman Bishop & Saint Methodius of Olympus in the late 3rd or early 4th century taught that the Feast of Tabernacles was commanded and that it had lessons for Christians. And he tied it in with the teaching of the millennial reign of Christ:
...these things, being like air and phantom shadows, foretell the resurrection and the putting up of our tabernacle that had fallen upon the earth, which at length, in the seventh thousand of years, resuming again immortal, we shall celebrate the great feast of true tabernacles in the new and indissoluble creation , the fruits of the earth having been gathered in, and men no longer begetting and begotten, but God resting from the works of creation...
For since in six days God made the heaven and the earth, and finished the whole world, and rested on the seventh day from all His works which He had made, and blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, so by a figure in the seventh month, when the fruits of the earth have been gathered in, we are commanded to keep the feast to the Lord , which signifies that, when this world shall be terminated at the seventh thousand years, when God shall have completed the world, He shall rejoice in us. For now to this time all things are created by His all-sufficient will and inconceivable power; the earth still yielding its fruits, and the waters being gathered together in their receptacles; and the light still severed from darkness, and the allotted number of men not yet being complete; and the sun arising to rule the day, and the moon the night; and four-footed creatures, and beasts, and creeping things arising from the earth, and winged creatures, and creatures that swim, from the water. Then, when the appointed times shall have been accomplished, and God shall have ceased to form this creation , in the seventh month, the great resurrection-day, it is commanded that the Feast of our Tabernacles shall be celebrated to theLord , of which the things said in Leviticus are symbols and figures, which things, carefully investigating, we should consider the naked truth itself, for He says, A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: to understand a proverb , and the interpretation; the words Of the wise, and their dark sayings. (Methodius. Banquet of the Ten Virgins (Discourse 9, Chapter 1). Translated by William R. Clark. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 6. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/062309.htm>)
Comments by Epiphanius and others in the late fourth century concerning the Nazarene Christians would also seem to support that those who kept the Fall Holy Days were located in several areas at that time (seeNazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes?).
The Feast of Tabernacles, consistent with biblical instructions (cf. Nehemiah 8:15; Deuteronomy 16:15), was being observed outside of Jerusalem centuries after Christ’s resurrection (other holy days, also were sometimes by Jews outside of Jerusalem, including apparently Pentecost in Luke 4:16 and the Days of Unleavened Bread in Luke 6:1, by Jesus). In the late fourth century, John Chrysostom (of Constantinople) commented that people who professed Christ in his area were observing it (John Chrysostom. Homily I Against the Jews I:5;VI:5;VII:2. Preached at Antioch, Syria in the Fall of 387 AD. Medieval Sourcebook: Saint John Chrysostom (c.347-407) : Eight Homilies Against the Jews. Fordham University. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/chrysostom-jews6.html; for more on John Chrysostum himself, please check out the article John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople and Antisemite).
Notice the following report related to the Middle Ages:
Under the name of Passagini, we have the clearest sort of statement that these people, about 1200, observed the whole Old Testament law, including the Sabbath and FESTIVALS! People called Cathars at Cologne, Germany, kept a fall festival, called "Malilosa", even before Waldo began to preach. Compare this unexplained name with Hebrew "melilah" (a harvested ear of grain -- Strong's Exhaustive Concordance) and the Biblical title "Feast of Ingathering" (Ex. 23:16). How much more we might have known about these Middle Ages' Feasts of Tabernacles had not the Inquisitors so zealously burned the records! The three-part division of tithes paid the Waldensian Church is significant. Even in the 1500's the same division continued. "The money given us by the people is carried to the aforesaid general council, and is delivered in the presence of all, and there it is received by the most ancients (the elders), and part thereof is given to those that are wayfaring men, according to their necessities, and part unto the poor" (George Morel, Waldensian elder, quoted by Lennard, "History of the Waldenses"). 1. Compare this practice with Num. 18:21 and Deut. 14:22-25, 28-29. Isn't it exactly what the Bible commands?... Most authors have ASSUMED the "wayfaring men" were the traveling "barbel." But THEIR expenses would have been paid from the money given the elders, at EVERY time of year, for the direct conduct of the Work -- "first" tithe and offerings. Notice that in Numbers 18:21. What Morel then mentions is a "second" tithe, for those traveling to and from the festivals -- wayfaring men; and following it, the "third" to the poor. See the explanation in Deut. 14. Feast goers who had more "second tithe" than they needed shared their excess with those who had need, even as they do today! (LESSON 51 (1968) AMBASSADOR COLLEGE BIBLE CORRESPONDENCE COURSE "And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place ..." Rev. 12:6).
Furthermore, Sabbath-keepers in Transylvania in the 1500s (and probably later kept) the Fall Holy Days such as the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Trumpets (called Day of Remembrance below):
The Sabbatarians viewed themselves as converted Gentiles..They held to the biblical holidays. (Liechty D. Sabbatarianism in the Sixteenth Century. Andrews University Press, Berrien Springs (MI), 1993, pp. 61-62)
Ivor Fletcher reported that some of the American Sabbath-keepers may have kept the Feast of Tabernacles back then:
By 1683 the American churches had realized the need of closer personal contact between the members.
With one church at Newport, on an island, and various scattered members on the mainland, they found great difficulty in meeting together as a group. On October 31 of that year Hubbard wrote to Elder William Gibson, who at the time was living in New London, "O that we could have a general meeting! but winter is coming upon us."
The first "General Meeting" was held in late May, 1684, shortly after Pentecost. All the brethren in New London, Westerly, Narraganset, Providence, Plymouth Colony and Martha's Vineyard were invited to attend. "The object of this meeting was to bring the members, so widely scattered together at a communion season." This was the first recorded general meeting of Sabbath-keepers in America. According to Hubbard 26 or 27 people were in attendance. Prayers were given and discussion took place on several doctrinal issues. "By this time, more members lived on the mainland than at Newport. Sabbath keepers had lived at Westerly since 1666, converts of Mumford. At a yearly meeting of the Church, at Westerly, on September 28, 1708 (New Style), the decision was made to separate into two churches. There were 72 at Westerly and 41 at Newport. (The Feast of Tabernacles for that year started Saturday, September 29.)
Previously it was common to hold the yearly meeting at Westerly. Its first elder, John Maxson, was ordained October 1, `by fasting and prayer and laying on of hands." There are strong indications that many of these annual meetings took place either during the fall Holy Day season or near Pentecost.
Although these people probably had only a limited knowledge of God's Plan of Salvation, pictured by these days, they were at least attempting to follow the Holy Day pattern that God had ordained. (Fletcher I.C. THE INCREDIBLE HISTORY OF GOD'S TRUE CHURCH, Chapter 13. Copyright 1984, by Ivor C. Fletcher. Reprinted in 1995 by Giving & Sharing)
And the Fall Holidays are still observed into the 21st century by many Sabbath-keeping Church of God groups.
The basic Old Testament understanding of the Feast of Tabernacles is that it was a seven-day celebration of the annual fall harvest and was observed by living in temporary dwellings for the duration of the Feast. (Leviticus 23:33-43) .
The basic New Testament understanding is that it pictures the Millennium, the 1000 year period when the earth will be ruled by Jesus Christ and His saints (see also the information in Pagan Holidays or God's Holy Days Which?).
Millenarianism (a literal thousand year reign of Christ on Earth, often called the millennium) was taught by the early Christians. The Bible teaches that the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth “as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).
During the millennium, Christ will rule as King of kings, and His saints will rule with and under Him for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:4-6). God will restore Israel and will bless all nations that learn to worship Him. The Bible shows that there will be peace and prosperity throughout the earth (Amos 9:11-15, Isaiah 19:24-25). It will be an abundant time for all people and all nations (Micah 4:3-4, Ezekiel 36:33-37) who obey (there will problems for those who stubbornly will at first refuse to obey ). Sickness and disease will be cured (Jeremiah 30:17; Malachi 4:2). Various problems will be removed from the earth (Isaiah 51:11-13; 35:4). The true worship of God and His truths will be taught throughout the world (Isaiah 30:21; Ezekiel 11:19-20, Hebrews 8:11-12; Revelation 20:1-6). The Feast of Tabernacles essentially helps picture God’s kingdom on this earth. The Bible teaches that Christians are to pray, “Thy Kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10). That kingdom will usher in the time when the promise described in Revelation:
6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in this first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be the priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)
More on the Kingdom can be found in the articles The Gospel of the Kingdom of God was the Emphasis of Jesus and the Early Church and Just What Do You Mean the Kingdom of God?
The Feast of Tabernacles: Additional Information
The late Herbert W. Armstrong wrote the following:
NOW WE come to the festival of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths the sixth festival. Let us notice the instruction concerning this occasion:
"Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine. And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter. . . . Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the Lord thy God in the place which the Lord shall choose: because the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice . . . and they shall not appear before the Lord empty: every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Eternal thy God which he hath given thee" (Deuteronomy 16:13-17).
Here is the Festival of Tabernacles, to be kept for seven days, beginning the 15th day of the seventh month of God's sacred calendar. Notice Leviticus 23:33-35: "And the Eternal spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the Eternal. On the first day shall be an holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work therein."
On the first of these days is a holy convocations commanded assembly. No work is to be done. ". . . And ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. . . . It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month" (Leviticus 23:40- 41).
Notice that it is commanded forever.
Here are pictured those final culminating events in God's great plan: after Christ has died for our sins to redeem mankind after He has sent us the Holy Spirit and picked out a people for His Name to become kings and priests through the thousand years after His glorious Second Coming after He has finally restored the redeemed by placing all the sins upon the head of Satan, their real author, and separating both him and the sins from the presence of God and His people, thus finally perfecting the at-one-ment, making us finally joined in one then we are ready for that final series of events, the commencement of the "Marriage of the Lamb," the actual making of the New Covenant, the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth and the reaping of the great harvest of souls for a thousand years.
This festival is the picture of the Millennium!
Pictures the Millennium
To portray His plan, God took the yearly material harvest seasons in ancient Israel as the picture of the spiritual harvest of souls. In the Holy Land there are two annual harvests. The first is the spring grain harvest. Second comes the main harvest.
Now notice when the Festival of Tabernacles is to be held "at the year's end" (Exodus 34:22). In this verse the Festival of Tabernacles or Booths is specifically called the "feast of ingathering." The harvest year ended at the beginning of autumn. Just as Pentecost pictures the early harvest this church age, so the Festival of Ingatherings or Tabernacles pictures the fall harvest the great harvest of souls in the Millennium!
Today is not the only day of salvation. Today is a day of salvation. Isaiah said so: chapter 49, verse 8. In fact, the original Greek words of Paul in II Corinthians 6:2 should be translated "a day of salvation," not "the day of salvation."
Turn to the book of Zechariah to understand this more thoroughly. In the 12th and 13th chapters we have a picture of Christ returning and the reconciliation of the world commencing. Here the meaning of the Festivals of Trumpets and Atonement is made plain.
Next, notice the 14th chapter. The time is the Millennium. "And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one . . . there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited" (verses 9, 11). It is the time when "living waters" salvation, the Holy Spirit "shall go out from Jerusalem" (verse 8). The "waters" are literal as well as figurative. God often pictures His spiritual plan by material events.
In that day, when the earth is safely inhabited, when the Holy Spirit is granted to all mortal flesh, what happens? "And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles" (verse 16).
Gentiles Forced to Keep the Feast of Tabernacles
Notice this 16th verse of Zechariah 14. After Christ returns, the nations mortal Gentiles who have not yet received salvation will come to Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Tabernacles! How could they keep a festival that was abolished at the cross? They could keep it only if it were commanded forever.
And what will happen if they refuse to obey God? "And it shall be, that who so will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain." Strong words these!
The nations will be forced to keep the Feast of Tabernacles, from year to year, when Christ is ruling with a rod of iron!
And if the nations still won't obey? ". . . there shall be the plague, wherewith the Lord will smite the heathen" there are still heathen nations just beginning to learn the way of salvation "that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. This shall be the punishment . . . of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles" (verses 18-19).
To receive salvation even the Gentiles will have to keep this festival. Of course, it is commanded forever!
Now we customarily quote Isaiah 66:23, showing that the Sabbath will be kept in the Millennium, as proof we must keep it now. Will we, then, when we read Zechariah 14:16, showing that the Feast of Tabernacles will be kept in the Millennium, be consistent by keeping it today?
Can we qualify as a son of God a king and priest ruling with Christ on His throne, assisting Christ at that time, if we now refuse to keep these festivals? Notice that Christ kept the Feast of Tabernacles. The Apostle John devoted an entire chapter of his gospel the seventh chapter to describe what Jesus said and did during the Feast of Tabernacles in the last year of His ministry.
Why Called the Feast of Tabernacles
During the Millennium, the Kingdom of God into which we may be born will rule the nations which are composed of mortal men begotten by the Spirit of God. The billions of mortal men alive during the Millennium will still be heirs to the Kingdom of God. They will not yet have inherited it as long as they remain mortal flesh, for "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (I Corinthians 15:50). "Ye must be born again" "of the Spirit" to inherit the Kingdom, said Jesus.
Remember that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were merely heirs when they dwelled on earth (Hebrews 11:9). While heirs they dwelled in tabernacles or booths, sojourning in the land of promise. Booths or temporary dwellings pictured that they were not yet inheritors. Thus we read of the Feast of Tabernacles that "ye shall dwell in booths seven days . . . that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt" (Leviticus 23:42-43). Israel dwelled in booths in the wilderness before they entered the promised land. Those booths pictured that they were only heirs. Even during the Millennium, when the Kingdom of God is ruling over mortal nations, the people will be only heirs to the Kingdom. They must overcome and grow in knowledge and wisdom to inherit the promises.
What a marvelous picture. God says of Ephraim (a type of all Israel) that they will "dwell in tabernacles, as in the days of the solemn feast" (Hosea 12:9). Israel, in the wilderness, was a type of all people who must go through trials and tribulations to inherit the promises. They were wanderers, waiting to inherit the promises of salvation.
The contention, held by some sects, that mortal human beings in the Millennium will remain flesh and blood forever is plainly denied by the Feast of Tabernacles, for the festival itself points toward an eternal inheritance.
Besides, after Jesus gathers the Church to Himself, and after He is seated on His throne where we will be ruling with Him, He will gather the nations before Him and say: "Inherit the Kingdom" (Matthew 25:34). (Armstrong HW. Pagan Holidays or God's Holy Days Which? booklet)
The Eighth Day (also Known as "The Last Great Day")
The seven day Feast of Tabernacles is immediately followed by the eighth day. Christians normally call this the ''Last Great Day'' based on these statement from Jesus in John 7:37-38,
37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."
According to an old, but probably modified in the 4th century document, it seems that Polycarp observed the Feast of Tabernacles in the second century including the Last Great Day:
I will give the narration in order, thus coming down to the history of the blessed Polycarp...
So also he pursued the reading of the Scriptures from childhood to old age, himself reading in church; and he recommended it to others, saying that the reading of the law and the prophets was the forerunner of grace, preparing and making straight the ways of the Lord, that is the hearts, which are like tablets whereon certain harsh beliefs and conceptions that were written before perfect knowledge came, are through the inculcation of the Old Testament, and the correct interpretation following thereupon, first smoothed and levelled, that, when the Holy Spirit comes as a pen, the grace and joy of the voice of the Gospel and of the doctrine of the immortal and heavenly Christ may be inscribed on them. And he said that they could not otherwise receive the impression of the seal which is given by baptism and engrave and exhibit the form conveyed in it, unless the wax were first softened and filled the deep parts. So also he thought that the hearts of the hearers ought to be softened and yield to the impress of the Word. For he said that it unfolded and opened, like closed doors, the minds of recent comers; and accordingly the prophet was bidden by God, Cry out mightily and spare not, Raise thy voice as a trumpet. What must one say, when even He that was gentler than all men so appeals and cries out at the feast of Tabernacles? For it is written; And on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried saying, If any man thirsteth, let him come to Me and drink. (Pionius, Life of Polycarp (1889) from J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 3.2, pp.488-506.)
Although it is adjacent to the Feast of Tabernacles, this eighth day is considered a separate Feast (Leviticus 23:36, 39. This eighth day helps picture the coming "Great White Throne Judgment" at which all of humanity that had not previously been truly called will have the chance to hear the real Gospel and accept God's offer salvation (see alsoUniversal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis and Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God differ from most Protestants).
While pagans have had holidays for the dead, the Last Great Day is really the "Day of the Dead". That is those that were spiritually and physically dead will be resurrected to have their opportunity for salvation (see also Hope of Salvation: How the COGs differ from most Protestants and Universal Salvation? There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis).
Here is some of what the late Herbert W. Armstrong taught about the Last Great Day:
This eighth day, technically a separate feast, is called "the last day, that great day of the feast" (John 7:37).
What does this final holy day represent?
Notice what Jesus preached about on that day: "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink . . . out of his belly [innermost being] shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive . . .)" (John 7:37-39).
This was Jesus' sermon giving the meaning of the last great day!
Now turn to Revelation 20. After the Millennium, what happens? A resurrection! The dead stand before God. This couldn't include true Christians today, as they will appear before the judgment seat when Christ returns. It couldn't refer to those converted during the Millennium. They have already inherited the Kingdom during the Millennium, after living out a normal life-span. Those in this resurrection must be those who died in ignorance in past ages! They are not brought to life until after the Millennium (Revelation 20:5).
This is that judgment day mentioned in Matthew 10: 15. It is a time when Gentiles who died in ignorance will be given an opportunity to receive salvation. Ezekiel 16:53-55 makes this very plain. Even those in Israel who died in their sins will be given their first opportunity to understand the truth of God and His way (Ezekiel 37). The prophet wrote that God would pour out His Spirit on those resurrected (verse 14). This is precisely the salvation that Jesus mentioned in His sermon on that great day of the feast in the autumn of AD 30.
This eighth day, which immediately follows the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles, pictures the completion of the plan of redemption. It is just prior to the new heaven and the new earth. All parents and children, young and old will be resurrected. Notice that the "book of life" typifying salvation is opened (Revelation 20:12). Revelation presents the final view of the "judgment day" as the present material heaven and earth are perishing and the faithful are receiving their eternal reward at the throne of Christ. The wicked those who disobey are seen perishing in the lake of fire! What a marvelous plan! All will have an equal opportunity (Armstrong HW. Pagan Holidays--or God’s Holy Days—Which?, booklet).
Isaiah prophesied how long the White Throne Judgment period would last. During this time Christ and the resurrected saints will rule. It is the time of the second resurrection. The earth will be as peaceful and productive as the Millennium itself. Children who died will live again for one hundred years, building character through the power of God's Holy Spirit. Older people who had died without knowing God's plan for them will also be resurrected to live for one hundred years. The close of the one-hundred-year White Throne Judgment is pictured by John in Revelation 20:11-12…100 years of testing…Isa. 65:20. (Bible Correspondence Course, Lesson 39. 1954, 1965 Edition).
A major reason that I became part of the old Worldwide Church of God (the group that took over WCG stopped observing biblical holy days) and remain part of the genuine Church of God is that in addition to proving all things from the Bible, I truly believe that since "God is love" (1 John 4:16) that He has a plan of salvation that will ultimately result in everyone being called and nearly every one who ever lived being saved.
Two must read articles to demonstrate the truth of those doctrines are Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God differs from most Protestants and Universal Salvation? There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis.
These Holy Days were Condemned by a Catholic Leader
In spite of their biblical origin, the Catholic saint John Chrysostom preached against the Fall Holy Days in 387 A.D.:
The festivals of the pitiful and miserable Jews are soon to march upon us one after the other and in quick succession: the feast of Trumpets, the feast of Tabernacles, the fasts. There are many in our ranks who say they think as we do...If the Jewish ceremonies are venerable and great, our are lies...Does God hate their festivals and do you share in them? He did not say this or that festival, but all of them together (John Chrysostom. Homily I Against the Jews I:5;VI:5;VII:2.. Preached at Antioch, Syria in the Fall of 387 AD. Medieval Sourcebook: Saint John Chrysostom (c.347-407) : Eight Homilies Against the Jews. Fordham University. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/chrysostom-jews6.html 12/10/05).
Now this actually causes a problem for the Catholic Church. First, it shows that until at least the late fourth century, that some who professed Christ still kept all the Holy Days. But secondly, and more importantly, since the Catholic Church claims that it still keeps a version of Passover (though under the name Easter in English) and Pentecost, then their saint, John Chrysostom, should never have condemned all of the festivals that God gave the Jews. Yet he did.
Furthermore, it needs to be understood John Chrysostom made many non-Christian statements towards Jews, and hence appears to have not been motivated by the word of God or love (more information can be found in the article Did Early Christians Observe the Fall Holy Days?).
How Are These Holy Days Observed Today?
How do Christians observe these Holy Days today?
Well, part of it is based upon the teachings of the Old Testament and part of it on the New Testament.
Recall that Deuteronomy 14:22-26 teaches:
22 "You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. 23 And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. 24 But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the Lord your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the Lord your God has blessed you, 25 then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the Lord your God chooses. 26 And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.
Because of this, Christians in the tend to go somewhere for the Fall festivals. The primary (if not only) location for the old Radio Church of God (which became the old Worldwide Church of God) was in Belknap Springs, Oregon. Herbert W. Armstrong attended the feast of Tabernacles there from at least 1946-1951 (he may have also attended there in later years). When our family went to the Feast in Oregon one year, we visited Belnap Springs and took the following photographs:
River at Belknap Springs and the building that services for the Feast of Tabernacles for 1946-1951 were held.
In the 21st century, the Continuing Church of God has some sites in scatted locations around the world such as Africa, North America, and the South Pacific (see Feast of Tabernacles' Sites for 2013). Here are sermons that were given at a few of those sites:
- The Millennium. There is also a related article titled Did The Early Church Teach Millenarianism?
- Behind the Work 2013: “For I work a work in your days”
- Feast of Tabernacles: Deuteronomy 1-4.
- Deuteronomy 5-12.
- Deuteronomy 13-17.
- Deuteronomy Chapters 18 - 24.
- Deuteronomy 25-30.
- Deuteronomy 31-34.
- Exodus, Judgments, and Jesus.
- Last Great Day.
Our family has been to Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Canada, Fiji, Greece/Turkey, Guatemala, Italy, Jamaica, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and various states in the USA for the Feast of Tabernacles (all in different years, except Greece and Turkey which was combined via a cruise).
Jesus Himself attended the Feast (John 7:10-26).
Normally, attendees at the Feast go to church services for two hours most days, and sometimes have two services on one or more of the Holy Days (first day of the Feast, the Sabbath, and the Last Great Day). Sermons often focus on the Kingdom of God, the law of God, and the Millennial reign of Christ, though pretty much any topic of Christian interest can be covered.
The Church normally has some type of family day activity for one day, often also a dance or social event at least one evening, and sometimes organizes group activities.
The time not at services or church activities is essentially free time, and people tend to go to restaurants, go sight-seeing, view the creation, meditate, participate in local activities, or otherwise attempt to enjoy being away from most of the cares of their normal lives.
The Holy Days
The Feast of Tabernacles is significant for Christians. It pictures the reality of Christ's reign on the earth and that this current world is simply temporal
In its Statement of Beliefs , the Continuing Church of God states:
The Feast of Tabernacles, which shows a time of abundance, helps picture the millennial reign (Revelation 20:4-5) of Jesus Christ and His saints on the earth (Zechariah 14; Matthew 9:37-38; 13:1-30; Luke 12:32; John 7:6-14; Acts 17:31; Revelation 5:10, 12:9). This future paradise, following the near total destruction that humanity will have brought upon itself through its activities and the Great Tribulation and Day of the Lord (Matthew 24:21-31), will help show humanity the advantages of God’s way of life. Every seven years, the law is to be read during this festival (Deuteronomy 31:10-13).
Because of its New Testament references and connections, the Feast of Tabernacles is something that should be highly relevant for Christians. In spite of this, a least one fourth century leader, who had antisemetic tendencies, condemned this day and other Fall Holy Days (see article Did Early Christians Observe the Fall Holy Days?)--however, the Bible itself shows that the Feast of Tabernacles is important for Christians.
Perhaps it might be helpful to realize that Catholics do admit that early Christians (sometimes called Nazarenes, see Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes?) did observe the Feast:
St. Jerome (PL 25, 1529 & 1536-7) speaking of how the Judaeo-Christians celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles…tells us that they gave the feast a millenarian significance (Bagatti, Bellarmino. Translated by Eugene Hoade. The Church from the Circumcision. Nihil obstat: Marcus Adinolfi. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 26 Junii 1970. Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, p.202).
Here is some of the actual Latin, from PL 1529 & 1535-1536:
1529...Judæi et Christiani judaizantes... Judæi Christiani…1535-1536... Omnes, inquit, qui relicti fuerint de gentibus quae venerint contra Jerusalem, ascendent per singulos annos, ut adorent regem Dominum exercituum, et celebrent festivitatem Tabernaculorum. Hæc quoque Judei cassa spe in mille annorum regno futura promittunt, cujus solemnitatis istud exordium est:
(It is typed by hand from that shown in Catholica Omnia Tabulinum De Ecclesiae Patribus Doctoribusque Materia Migne JP Argumentum Patrologia Latina Volumen MPL025 Ab Columna ad Culumnam 1415 - 1542A, pp. 922, 930 http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/02m/0347-0420,_Hieronymus,_Commentariorum_In_Zachariam_Prophetam_Libri_Duo,_MLT.pdf and is part of http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/1815-1875,_Migne,_Patrologia_Latina_01._Rerum_Conspectus_Pro_Tomis_Ordinatus,_MLT.html which is related to http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/25_20_25-_Rerum_Conspectus_Pro_Auctoribus_Ordinatus.html)
Here is a basically Google-machine translation of the above with minor adjustments for English:
Jews and Christian judaizers…Christian Jews… All, he says, those who remain survivors of the nations that come against Jerusalem, shall go up every year, to worship the King the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of Tabernacles. These also shall hope in, through the hollow devotion of Jews, a thousand years old promise of the future kingdom, whose festival this is the beginning of.
And the eighth day festival pictures that salvation will be offered to all humankind.
Jesus, Paul, and true Christians kept these Holy Days. Though they were condemned by one who called Jews "miserable", this does not change the fact that they are taught in the Bible and were observed by true Christians.
Sadly, since most professing Christianity do not keep these days and the other Christian Holy Days, they often do not have a proper view of God's plan of salvation. These day picture not only what has happened but what will happen.
This is information that Christians living in these latter days should value.
More information on the Holy Days can be found in the booklet Pagan Holidays or God's Holy Days Which?, or the articles:
Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God Differs from Protestantism
Universal Salvation? There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis
Is There "An Annual Worship Calendar" In the Bible?
The Feast of Tabernacles: A Time to Learn the Law
Did Early Christian Teach Millenarianism? (a literal thousand year reign of Christ on Earth, often called the millennium)
Should Christians Keep the Days of Unleavened Bread?
Melito's Homily on the Passover
The Book of Life and the Feast of Trumpets?
The Day of Atonement--Its Christian Significance
Holy Day Calendar
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