God instructed the ancient Israelites to leave their homes every year to observe a festival in a location He chose. What is the significance of this feast, and what does it mean for you?
Many people have attended church services all their lives and never heard of the Feast of Tabernacles . The festival is seldom mentioned in churches, although it is mentioned prominently in the Bible. Jesus Christ observed this festival, as did His apostles long after His death and resurrection.
What is the meaning of this feast, and why don't we hear more about it?
Of those who have heard of it, most think of it as Jewish, if they think of it at all. The notion that the Feast of Tabernacles was only for Old Testament Jews is not only wrong, it is dead wrong.
Answers to big questions
You and I live in a world largely devoid of the knowledge of God's plans for mankind. Most don't know why human life exists. We don't understand what lies ahead for us.
Although the answers to these questions have long been available, most people haven't known where to look for them, or they've ignored the source where they could find the answers. God's festivals, including the Feast of Tabernacles, can help answer such timeless questions.
God set in place His carefully designed system of feasts in Old Testament times. He commanded the Israelites to keep His days even though they didn't grasp their deep spiritual symbolism and significance at the time. Among the many reasons to observe them is their depiction of God's plan to save mankind.
On the surface this might sound odd. But God has a reason and design behind everything He does. The feast days He spelled out for ancient Israel represent aspects of His master plan for mankind's redemption. They reveal not only our potential but how we can attain it.
The Feast of Tabernacles depicts how a major piece of the puzzle-how man will finally find peace-will fall into place.
God's promise of peace
At the time of Jesus' birth God sent an angel to announce it to shepherds. While the angel was conveying the divine message, God revealed a heavenly host praising God: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men" (Luke 2:14). This verse is often spoken or sung during the Christmas season, but it wasn't intended for that man-made holiday. In truth, God's peace on earth will be realized only with the ultimate fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles.
Jesus' birth set in motion a series of events that eventually will lead to true peace on earth. That peace didn't come in Christ's lifetime. As He told the Roman governor Pontius Pilate: "My kingdom is not of this world ... You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world ..." (John 18:36-37).
He knew He would come again-the second time to transform the world and establish the kingdom over which He will reign (Isaiah 11:1-5; Zechariah 14:9; Revelation 20:4). Only then will mankind enjoy God's blessing of peace.
To understand how that peace will come, we first need to understand why the world suffers from so much anger and violence.
From the beginning God instructed Adam and Eve in His way of truth and peace. But an interloper appeared on the scene-Satan the devil, the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). He deceived Eve, who in turn convinced her husband that he and she should disregard God's instructions not to take of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:15-17).
This event changed the course of human history. From this point on every human being has relied on his own judgment rather than God's instructions. This situation strikes at the heart of man's lack of godly peace, his continual conflict and wars.
What is behind humanity's endless wars? In a word, Satan, the god of this world, is the unseen but powerful instigator behind war.
He is also the original sinner and rebel against God. The prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel make it clear that Satan, once a powerful angel at God's throne, was the first to rebel against his Creator and Maker (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:13-17). This powerful spirit being was so industrious and effective in his deception that a third of the angels bought into his perverted notions and became demons (Revelation 12:3-4, 9).
Later, when God created Adam, Satan was lurking about, hoping to instill his evil notions of pride and arrogance into Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1-5). He succeeded. They accepted his subtle and persuasive arguments, and the results were disastrous. They disobeyed their Creator, who then expelled them from Eden. Later Cain, their firstborn son, murdered his brother Abel (Genesis 4:1-12).
These events show the deceptive and deadly fruits of Satan's frame of mind. Christ identified Satan as "a murderer from the beginning" and "a liar and the father of it" (John 8:44).
Satan is the author of war and indeed all anger and hostility. In his arrogance he attempted to overthrow his Maker. Isaiah records his misguided thinking: "... You have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High'" (Isaiah 14:13-14). But God defeated him and consigned him to earth, where he reigns as "the ruler of this world" (John 16:11). He will remain in control until Christ incarcerates him at His second coming (Revelation 20:1-3).
With this source of bitterness, hostility and deception removed from influencing humanity, the world will at last begin to experience peace, contentment and joy.
The meanings of God's feasts
This is where the meaning of the Feast of Tabernacles comes to light.
It's important to briefly preview all of God's feasts to better understand the significance of the Feast of Tabernacles. God's seven festivals are laid out in Leviticus 23: the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks or Firstfruits (Pentecost), the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day of the feast. These feasts show how God works to bring about the salvation of mankind.
The Passover represents Jesus' sacrifice for mankind (John 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:7). The seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread represents the unleavened life of Christ and shows the need for His disciples to "be holy, for [He is] holy," by ceasing to sin (1 Corinthians 5:7-8; 1 Peter 1:16). Pentecost shows the need for us to receive God's Spirit to empower us to become like God the Father and His Son, Jesus (Acts 2:1-4; Romans 8:9-19).
The Feast of Trumpets depicts Christ's return to earth "at the last trumpet," at which time God will resurrect His faithful followers to immortality in the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; Revelation 11:15). The symbolism of the Day of Atonement represents Satan being shackled for 1,000 years, allowing mankind to at last be reconciled-at one-with God (Revelation 20:1-3).
We then come to the symbolism of the Feast of Tabernacles. Next in God's plan is 1,000 years of unprecedented peace and unparalleled prosperity (Revelation 20:4-6; Zechariah 14:3-4, 8-9).
Finally, the Last Great Day signifies the second resurrection, when all who have lived and died without ever knowing God and His plan will have their opportunity to be saved. God will resurrect them from their graves and give them temporary physical life along with revelatory knowledge of God, His truths and their part in His master plan (Revelation 20:11-12; Ezekiel 37:1-14).
These feasts- God's feasts (Leviticus 23:2, 4)-represent the steps in His plan for salvation.
The feast of peace
If one thing is sadly lacking in the world, it is peace. In several thousand years of history our planet has experienced only a few isolated years of peace between wars raging somewhere on the globe.
The Feast of Tabernacles, however, shows how history will change. It symbolizes 1,000 years of uninterrupted peace and prosperity when people will learn cooperation rather than confrontation.
God has in store for mankind a millennium of unbroken, unbridled and unpolluted peace. Speaking through the prophet Isaiah, He says of this time: "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9).
Jeremiah also helps us understand how mankind will at last find peace. People will at last learn God's ways. "No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more" (Jeremiah 31:34).
God's instruction will include the imparting of understanding of His feast days, including the Feast of Tabernacles. "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 [Jesus the Messiah], and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles" (Zechariah 14:16, emphasis added).
For the first time in history, peace will break out over the earth. There will be no more locked doors or windows, no more muggings, no more crimes, no more murders, no more wars.
The prophet Micah tells us that "out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken" (Micah 4:2-4). This is the world Almighty God has in store for mankind-including you.
You can have a foretaste of the coming time of peace. The members of the United Church of God, publisher of The Good News , will gather in dozens of locations around the world in October in obedience to God's command to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. There they will observe this Feast, worshiping God and hearing more about the meaning of His plan explained from the Scriptures. Visitors are always welcome. GN