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What is the Feast of Tabernacles?

Sunset over the ocean.

God’s plan for mankind involves restoration. The Feast of Tabernacles symbolizes the restoration process.

Chronicling the activities of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry, the book of John points out that when the “Feast of Tabernacles was at hand,” Jesus Himself “went up to the feast” and taught at the Temple in Jerusalem. This was done in observance of the final of three annual Festival seasons that are outlined in the Bible, particularly in the book of Leviticus.

In 2015, the Feast of Tabernacles will be observed from September 28 through October 4 and the Eighth Day on October 5.

These three seasons, the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Pentecost and the Fall Festival season, were all observed by Jesus and the first-century Church. The latter season is capped by the seven-day Festival of Tabernacles and the Eighth Day (Leviticus 23:33-36 Leviticus 23:33-36 33 And 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 shall be an holy convocation: you shall do no servile work therein. 36 Seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation to you; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD: it is a solemn assembly; and you shall do no servile work therein.
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As part of the United Church of God’s commitment to follow the example of the first-century Church, we keep these days, even though they are essentially nontraditional in today’s age and not largely observed by other religious organizations.

This same commitment leads members of the United Church of God to observe a seventh-day Sabbath on Saturday as Christ did.

From a biblical perspective, the Feast of Tabernacles pictures the coming time when Jesus will return to earth and directly rule the world for 1,000 years.

As the Feast of Tabernacles represents a coming time of unprecedented harmony and peace, we conduct this annual eight-day event with a strong family focus. Accordingly, members and families take part in daily church services and a whole range of positive family-based activities throughout the Festival.

This eight-day Festival represents the prophesied fulfillment of the coming Kingdom of God, which Jesus taught about extensively during His earthly ministry. The annual festivals observed earlier in the year by the Church represent the Christian’s redemption from sin through Christ’s sacrifice, the commitment of Christians to put sin out of their lives and the coming of God’s Holy Spirit to strongly empower a Christian to live life in harmony with God’s law and prepare for eternal life.

United Church of God members and families will travel to dozens of Feast of Tabernacles sites around the world to take part in this biblical assembly. Church members traditionally observe the earlier festivals in their local areas. However, proper observance of the Feast of Tabernacles requires that members reside in temporary quarters (called “booths” or “tabernacles” in the Bible – Leviticus 23:42 Leviticus 23:42You shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths:
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The Church rents large conference centers or facilities to accommodate daily worship during the Festival, and members typically stay in nearby hotels to fulfill the temporary nature required by the biblical command. Staying in a temporary dwelling such as a hotel underscores the transitory nature of this present world and illustrates how it will be replaced by the prophesied Kingdom of God.

The emphasis placed by Christ on the coming Kingdom of God is intense, and Church members accordingly take the opportunity to observe this Festival very seriously.

Because the Feast of Tabernacles occurs during a nontraditional time when vacations and school absences are not common, the Church encourages members and families to notify employers and schools well in advance of their plans.

This helps minimize misunderstandings and to obtain school assignments and other information. This way Church children don’t fall behind in academics while they are briefly absent from school to observe the biblical festivals with their families. The vast majority of teachers and administrators are very cooperative across the United States in helping students prepare for their brief absences to observe the biblical festivals.

2015 Feast of Tabernacles locations sponsored by the United Church of God