Let Us Keep the Feasts
When the Church Takes the Kingdom!
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Let Us Keep the Feasts: When the Church Takes the Kingdom!
This is part 11 in the Beyond Today Bible study series: Let Us Keep the Feasts. Daniel’s prophecy of various kingdoms describes a coming Kingdom that will not be left to others. How does this Kingdom, which is God's, relate to the Feast of Tabernacles? Will you have a part in that Kingdom? This study focuses on your part in preparing for the coming Kingdom of God.
[Darris McNeely] Good evening, everyone. Welcome to our bi-weekly Bible studies here at the Home Office of the United Church of God. Those of you that are here in the room tonight we're glad you came out, and for those of you that are online watching live or watching it later on, welcome. We are in the midst of a series, continuation actually, of the Let Us Keep the Feasts presentations that began some months back, after more than a year ago when we did a run up through the Feast of Pentecost, and now we are doing the fall festivals. And we have come to that point where we are about ready to discuss the Feast of Tabernacles.
Before we start into that one, however, let's all bow our heads and we'll ask God's blessing on the evening and on our studies. Please, bow our heads. Father in heaven, our great God, we thank You very much for this evening and for the opportunity to gather here before You in a mid-week study to look into Your Word, to be instructed and also to fellowship with one another, to be encouraged by the unity and the love that we have, fathered by Your Spirit that does draw us together as we study into this subject of the feasts and the Feast of Tabernacles. We pray, Father, that You would help us all to recognize the importance of the spiritual gathering as You gather us before You as our Father. So, we commit this study into Your hands and ask for Your blessing and do so in Christ's name. Amen. Thank you very much.
The title of this, "Let us Keep the Feasts" presentation, is "The Church Takes the Kingdom." It is hard to believe again but we are only about a little more than five weeks away from the Feast of Tabernacles. Before we do that, we will however, keep the Day of Atonement as well as the Feast of Trumpets. And then after the Feast of Tabernacles is completed, we will observed the Eighth Day and the final assembly on the festival calendar for us at that time. So the Fall Festival season is upon us, and I think we've all begun to think about that. These studies help us to get a feeling for that and our plans are made for the most part, and we're kind of on that countdown that we get this time of year. I know, I always kind of look at that one full moon that we have just before the Feast and when I see that at this time of year which will be upon us in a few days, then I know that we're down to the last month. And so it's an exciting time of year. Let us talk about the Feast of Tabernacles for tonight.
There are a number scriptures that explain what the Feast of Tabernacles is, from the Word of God. And it's good for us to review that. Take your Bibles and let's turn back to the book of Deuteronomy 16. And let's just notice a few scriptures that teach us about this festival and form the foundation and the basis for what we understand. Deuteronomy 16, beginning in verse 13, it says that, "You shall observe the Feast of Tabernacles seven days when you have gathered from your threshing floor and from your wine press." So it is a harvest festival, it comes in the fall of the year, and in the climate zones of Israel and for us here in America that is the time of the harvest, the fall harvest, the gathering there. "You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter; your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates. Seven days, you shall keep the sacred feast to the Lord your God in the place which the Lord chooses because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you surely rejoice."
From the foundational verses of the Feast of Tabernacles, we obtain a sense that this festival is a time of joy. It is a pleasurable event. The work of the season has been done, the harvest has been gathered in and as we observe it today in a modern context, in a modern setting, we have prepared financially to keep the Feast through the year, and we have the ability to come and to do this in the Feast of Tabernacles. And so it's a very powerful representation of something that fits into the plan of God and is a representation of a time and a period in the future. In fact, in Acts chapter 3 and verse 19, Peter mentions a time in the future of every story. In Acts 3:19, he says to the assembled group, "Repent therefore and be converted that your sins may be blotted out so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things which God has spoken by the mouth of His holy prophet since the world began."
Here is a verse put here in the midst of the book of Acts in this sermon that is more than just a call to repentance. It speaks to a time of refreshing and a times of restoration of all things which have been spoken by the mouth of the prophets “since the world began.” And when the Bible speaks in the phrase of either the foundation of this world, before the foundation of the world, or in this case since the world began, we're speaking of that period of time that we read about in Genesis from the time of Adam forward, and that human history and the human experience in the world that we have, and it's a time of restoration and a time of refreshing. What Peter speaks to is a time that the Feast of Tabernacles began to picture and the prophets began to talk about restoration. Israel understood it in terms of the House of Israel, the throne of David. They asked Christ, "Will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" just prior to His death, and He had explained to them that that was going to take a little bit longer. They had in mind the many, many prophecies that spoke through this time of restoring and refreshing, that really stretched beyond the time of Israel and the tribes and the nation of Israel, but also would include the nations and the work among all the nations at that time.
Now, in 2 Corinthians 5, we have another reference as the apostle Paul develops an idea that speaks as well to this. The Feast of Tabernacles is understood to be a time of temporary dwelling, a time of tabernacling, and the meaning of that word is a temporary shelter. Today we would look at a tent we might carry into the woods or to a campsite and set up and camp for a weekend, a few days to get away from it all, so to speak. Although, when you camp today, you really don't get away from it all because everybody else is camping. That's one of the things that I've learned through the years but unless you've got your own really private reserve, you go to a public camp ground and you're tent peg to tent peg. And it's not quite as private, but it is at least a break. But it's the idea of being in a temporary shelter and this is how the meaning of tabernacles is developed. It always was a pilgrim festival where people went either up to Shiloh, the location where the Ark of the Covenant and the temporary tabernacle of the wilderness resided, or later after Jerusalem became the capital and the temple was built, the pilgrims would go up to Jerusalem. And the population would swell there. And people would keep the festivals, not just the Fall Festival but the period of Pentecost and the spring Passover and Unleavened Bread.
But it was a time of temporary dwellings. And what Paul talks here in 2 Corinthians 5, about the resurrection, he's also drawing in the temporary nature of our life. “For we know,” he says in verse 1, "that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan earnestly, desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven. If indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked, for we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed but the further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life,” that this physical life would be swallowed up by eternal life. We would, through a resurrection, take on immortality as he explained in the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians, in this very detailed description of the resurrection.
And Paul here talks about something then that is extremely valuable to our understanding of the Feast of Tabernacles and how that works in teaching us something about the temporary nature of this life, of our world. But particularly our life within, because he likens our life to that of a tent. Peter and his second epistle would also later refer to his understanding that his life, he was about to fold up his tent, just to refer to that. He understood that his life was going to come to an end and it's one of the purposes he wrote 2 Peter. And it was a time to fold his tents. The Feast of Tabernacles teaches us of the transitory nature of this life in this world in which we are in.
We turn the book of Revelation 20, and we put together another piece of the picture. We see that at the time of Christ's return and the appearance of Christ that is described in detail in chapter 19, we come to chapter 20. And we find that a description of this time in the period after Christ's return, a description of thrones, “and they sat on them” in verse 4, “and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who'd been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the Word of God, who had not worship the Beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands, and they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” Here, in the only place in scripture we have a definite assignment of time to this period that it follows after the return of Christ for a thousand years, from which we get the term “millennium.” When we refer to the millennium, the millennial reign of Jesus Christ is merely referring to what verse 4 says here, of Christ being, reigning on the earth for a thousand years.
And it says then that “the rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection, and blessed and holy is he who has part in that first resurrection. Over such, the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” So here's this reference to a time period of a thousand years after the coming of Christ, described here Revelation 19, the time of the first resurrection. And the events really through these four verses and references that I've taken you through, from Deuteronomy to Corinthians to Acts to here in Revelation, form a very brief overview of scriptures that point to the timing of the period that we are keeping and observing when we keep the Feast of Tabernacles.
We do what God tells us to do, that we read back in Deuteronomy 16, that we appear before God. There are other verses that I could read that describe taking our tithe and going and enjoying things that we... whatever we want, whatever your soul desires, it says, and to rejoice before God and to learn to fear God. Those other principles are brought out there as Israel kept the Feast of Tabernacles. As I've said, it was a harvest festival. It was for seven days. We have read those scriptures and in our setting within the modern era of the Church of God, we have kept of all of the Holy Days but particularly the Feast of Tabernacles has become the highlight, the center time of the year on the annual festival calendar for the Church when we gather for seven days and then with the Eighth Day—eight days of gathering to worship God, to fear God, to be instructed, to fellowship, to get a break from our lives, and to put our minds upon the meaning that is there.
We keep the Feast today in a much different way than in Israel would have in the ancient time or even the Jews at the time of Jesus Christ. We go to selected sites that may rotate from time to time because of many different circumstances, and we keep the Feast in ways that are quite different for us, or they are for us as opposed to what must have been for an Israelite back then. We have adapted that time into our world today, and we keep it with the spiritual principles in mind as well as the spiritual teaching, that those being foremost, but we keep them in a modern setting. We keep them in very modern places like Panama City Beach or Gatlinburg, Tennessee, or other places in the world where the people gather. And the accommodations can vary from modest to quite nice. And we all know that and we understand that and we look forward to it. It is the highlight of the year.
We should never lose sight of the spiritual meaning and the spiritual principles that are there from Scripture to the Feast because it is that spiritual meaning that is most important to us. And there's always a tendency for human beings, and God's people are not exempt from this, of losing sight of what the Feast means and what it pictures. I like to read something every once in a while, I usually read it in the class at ABC here. We would go through the doctrines and we talk about the second coming of Jesus Christ. And these scriptures and many more are brought out and we talk about this. I like to read a document that is well-known from history that was written by an agnostic historian in the 18th century, a man by the name of Edward Gibbon. Edward Gibbon lived in England, he wrote a famous book called, "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire." And it's rather a large, tedious book. I tell students at times that if you really want to get smart, read Gibbon. Just read the first volume of his five volume series. Or if you can't read the first volume, just read maybe chapter 15.
Chapter 15 of Gibbon's work describes the Church as it began during the time of the Roman Empire at its peak. And Gibbon devotes an entire chapter to the beginning of the Church. And it's a rather revealing chapter. He is an agnostic, remember, but he has a few paragraphs in there where he actually talks about the millennium. And his comments are very, very astute and they're instructive for us. Let me read just a few lines from it to break into his thought. He says, of this doctrine that we have just briefly read, he says, “the ancient and popular doctrine of the millennium was intimately connected with the second coming of Christ. As the works of Creation had been finished in six days, their duration in their present state, according to tradition attributed to Elijah, was fixed to six thousand years. And by the same analogy, it was inferred that this long period of labor and contention, which was now almost elapsed, would be succeeded by a joyful Sabbath of a thousand years.”
So he gets that and puts it down, “that Christ triumphant, with His triumphant band of the saints and the elect who escaped death, who have been miraculously revived, would reign upon earth till the time appointed for the last and general resurrection.” So far so good, pretty straightforward, much there to agree with because he accurately describes what the early Church taught and believed. And he goes on to show how it impacted their life, and he comes down a few lines later and, speaking of this teaching of the millennium, he says, “it seemed so well-adapted to the desires and apprehensions of mankind that it must have contributed in a very considerable, to a degree, to the progress of the Christian faith.” Well he's true, he's correct. The teaching about Christ's second coming, times of refreshing and the millennium, contributed... “was adapted to the desires and the apprehensions of mankind.”
Who would not have a desire for a world at peace? For mankind to be in this time of the reign of Jesus Christ upon the earth, as all the prophecies described it. The message that the Church had at that time and one of the reasons people were attracted to the Church in the period of the Roman Empire was because of this hope and this teaching of the millennium. But through the years, after the time of the apostles something happened. And Gibbon describes this here. He describes a time after the apostles, after a time when the faith once delivered was eroded within the Church. And really a different church began to emerge in history that was not the Church that we see recorded and mentioned in the book of Acts, the Church Jesus built. A different church took place. And this particular teaching about the millennium, Gibbon has an interesting observation about.
He says, “When the edifice of the church was almost completed, the temporary support was laid aside.” He refers to the doctrine of the millennium as a temporary support. When the church had been built bigger is what he's saying. “The doctrine of Christ’s reign upon earth was at first treated as an allegory,” merely an interesting story to make a larger, spiritual point. He said, “It was also considered by degrees as a doubtful and useless opinion.” A doubtful and useless opinion. This is how he describes the prevailing belief about Christ's second coming and the thousand year reign. “And it was at length rejected as the absurd invention of heresy and fanaticism.” It was rejected by later church teachers. “A mysterious prophesy,” he says, “that still forms part of the Bible but it was thought to favor an exploded sentiment and has very narrowly escaped the proscription of the church.”
So Gibbon describes here that it was considered “an absurd invention of heresy and fanaticism” and was laid aside and that is indeed what happened in the later church history. And to make a long story short, the teaching became then that the church was the Kingdom of God on the earth. Christ had come at Pentecost. And now, the Church was the Kingdom of God. And we were off and running, at least they were at that time, through hundreds and hundreds of years of exploitation, the period called an "Age of Darkness" by one historian as he described that period of time, imposed because of a rejection of something that actually gave light. Gibbon's comment is very, very instructive and I want to come back to it later. But I want to go back into the Scriptures, he made a comment he said that the doctrine of the Christ's second coming in the millennium was suited toward the desires and the fears of mankind.
Well when you turn back to Isaiah 2, you see why. Isaiah 2 is probably one of the best overall summations of a picture and an image of the time of the millennium and this period of time when Christ reigns on the earth. In Isaiah 2, beginning in verse 2, it says, “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains and shall be exalted above the hills and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, ‘Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He'll teach us his ways and we will walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations,” a time that has not happened. God has pronounced judgment upon the nations but not in the way described here by Isaiah in this vision. “He will rebuke many people. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nations shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
This beautiful vision tells us obviously that this has not come to pass. Nations still lift up swords against each other. They have not learned the way of peace. They have not been judged righteously by God's law. God knows when this will happen. God has a timetable of His plan and purpose of salvation. We pray earnestly for this time. We will read the scripture, I'm sure that at all of our feast sites in one form or the other through messages that will be given more than once most likely. But to look at that time, it is a picture of a peaceful, utopian picture. A utopia is a time and a place of complete peace, harmony among people. It's near mythical because this has never happened since man has been on the earth.
There have been many efforts by people to take this verse and others and try to create near millennial type of communities of their own. I don't know how many of you have ever been to Shaker Village. From us here in Cincinnati, it's just a short distance south of us, maybe an hour and a half to two hour drive south of Lexington, Kentucky. The remains of a group of people called Shakers in the 1800s, who came together to live communally according to certain religious teachings and to form a utopian society.
Two years ago we took our Beyond Today crew over into southwest Indiana, on the Wabash River, to a place called New Harmony. And there we made a Beyond Today program about utopia. If you haven't seen it, I would urge you to look at it, it’s on our website, the Beyond Today website. In New Harmony, Indiana, a group of religious people came in 1824 and they built a community in the wilderness of Indiana at that time in anticipation of Christ's coming, but they lived communally and they sought to create a perfect microcosm of that coming kingdom. It lasted about 10 years and then kind of fell apart by stages, to bring that story to its end. It didn't accomplish its ends, and the idea of Christ's coming as they were waiting for it didn't happen. And the world waits to this day. We continue to come together to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.
You know somebody sent me today an advertisement. It's on the web for... the advertisement came from a church down in San Antonio, Texas. It's an interesting ad because it was featuring a picture of a very prominent television evangelist who's going to be speaking where this church keeps the Feast of Tabernacles. This is a protestant evangelical church, quite large, and they keep the Feast of Tabernacles every year. I'm not quite sure the form and the way in which they keep it, but I was looking at the words on their web page, and they believe that it's important that Christians get in touch with the Jewish roots of Christianity by keeping the festivals. And so they actually keep the Feast of Tabernacles. They also had another interesting line in their little ad that said that they feel it's important to add this and other Biblical festivals onto the traditional Christian calendar. And you know what else is on the traditional Christian calendar? Christmas, Easter and a lot of other holidays that are part of the Christian calendar.
Now I don't mean to make light of that, in fact, I applaud any sincere effort by anyone to read the Bible and seek to do what it says. I have no argument with that and if anybody in any denomination, any religious group reads the Bible and sees they should do something like keep the Feast of Tabernacles or even begin to keep the seventh-day Sabbath, I applaud it and I say go for it. I have no problem with that. In fact, if you went to Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles in any year, you would, you'll probably... unless you had advance reservations, you might not get a room because people gather from all over the world to keep the Feast of Tabernacles, not just Jews but other Christian groups, messianic groups. And the hotels are full, and the tour buses are running around the roads. And they have sukkots in every hotel courtyard. We had services in one a couple days after the conclusion of the Feast a few years ago when we went from Jordan over to Jerusalem. And we landed there on a Sabbath so we had a Sabbath service in a sukkot that year. It was left over from the Feast of Tabernacles.
So people go to Jerusalem still today to keep the Feast and people today will either sometimes in their backyard set up a sukkot, or they'll go to where a certain groups may be keeping the Feast in their efforts to do what they say for whatever reason. Now there is a dimension in this prophesied time that is very critically important to understand called the Feast of Tabernacles and as I said, I applaud anyone's sincere effort to obey by the Bible but, here comes the other shoe, the Feast of Tabernacles is more than just an Israelite harvest festival. It's more than that. It never was really just an Israelite harvest festival. If you read Leviticus 23, it says these are the feasts of the Lord God. They're God's feasts, and they come at various times through the year.
The Feast of Tabernacles is also more than just a curious festival for religious explorers to study at arm's length, as part of an effort to get in touch with the Jewish roots of Christianity. The Feast is more than that. And the Feast of Tabernacles is not a curiosity for traditional Christians, to place on a traditional Christian calendar alongside pagan festivals like Christmas and Easter. You cannot blend the two. You cannot halt between two opinions. It cannot be done, not according to the Word of God. And for us, for you and I, as we keep the Feast in the traditional manner that we have endeavored in a sincere effort in our time to take this festival from the Old Testament and keep it in a modern setting; for us, the Feast of Tabernacles is more than a vacation. Period.
Now, have I stepped on all our toes? Good. It's more than a vacation. It is much more than that. And we take our vacation time to do it, and I recognize that and for many, most it is the only time of the year off, it is that vacation period as we traditionally have it in American culture, but the Feast is more than a vacation. And the people of God must know that, we must remind ourselves of that. Because we don't want to forget and we do not want to be like those that are described in this paper that I read to you by Edward Gibbon as he described the ancient Christianity where they laid aside the teaching of God. We don't want to forget to the point where we might carelessly, even without intent, lay aside the eternal truths that we have learned of any part of God's law but especially when it comes to the Feast of Tabernacles.
The Feast of Tabernacles is a foretaste of the world tomorrow. I always like that phrase, always thought it was pretty appropriate. It is a foretaste of the world tomorrow. It is a time to gather and to worship God. It is a time to learn to fear God. It is a time to rejoice before God. You and your family, your servants, as the teaching goes. If you look carefully there in Deuteronomy 16, the elements that are there to keep the Feast are worship of God, people and food. Those are the three elements that seem to blend and wind around in the description in Deuteronomy 16. Worship of God, number one. Fellowship and people, and food. You have those three ingredients as you keep the Feast and you can have a good Feast. You can have a successful Feast wherever you may be, wherever it would be that God has placed His name for you at any time where by our means available to us we'd go to keep it.
Worship of God in spirit and in truth; people of God, the fellowship; and a good meal. Those are the three elements. And if it's the best steak that the best steakhouse can serve up for you, or if it is what I used to consider and think when I was a teenager, a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. That was my high dream of good eating at the Feast of Tabernacles. I got a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, I was at the Feast. I had arrived. I've changed a little bit since then, I still like good fried chicken but not a whole bucketful. Those are the things that Deuteronomy tells us. It is a time, the Feast is, to rehearse God's grand plan of salvation for all nations. It's a time for the Church to gather before God. It's like a family feast with God our Father, having prepared for us a spiritual feast for us to learn about Him and His eternal plan. And if we keep it in that spirit of what Deuteronomy and these other scriptures show us, it is a foretaste of what is to come in the next phase of God's plan and we will be more inclined, brethren, as we do it that way to keep this in our forefront: worship God, fellowship with His people, and rejoice with food.
But if we put God first and fear Him, then we will not be likely to forget and we will remember what it is to teach us. In Colossians chapter 2, there is a reference to the festivals and the Sabbath. Colossians, the second chapter and after all the exegesis, hermeneutic, as I taught the ABC doctrines class today and I showed the kids what a proper hermeneutic is and proper exegesis where we interpret the Bible correctly by a correct hermeneutic and we bring out of the verse what the verse is telling us, meaning we don't read into the verse and do eisegesis. So you just had a section of the class that we had today.
When you read Colossians 2:16-17 and after all the discussion that surrounds this, and there's a lot, it says what it says in verse 17 regarding the festival, the new moon or the Sabbath, he says, “which,” in verse 17, “are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” We keep the festival, we keep the Sabbath and all the festivals as a foretaste or as a shadow of things to come, a shadow of things to come. And Christ is right in the middle of it, Christ is the substance of the festivals. We have covered that quite adequately and quite well in Beyond Today television programs and articles as well. But it's a shadow of what is to come. So what is to come? What is it to come?
When we look at the Feast of Tabernacles, well, what is to come is a new epoch in history. A new era, a new world, a new age if you want to use that term and use it appropriately. It's not “The Age of Aquarius.” It's not some-age channel by some pagan, false, new age teaching. It is a new epoch, it is a different period in human history. This is the shadow, this is what is to come as we keep the Feast of Tabernacles. And that has to be kept foremost in our mind.
Back in Revelation 11, we read about the appearance of this new epoch. Revelation 11, beginning in verse 15, the sounding of the seventh angel. It says, “There were loud voices in heaven saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.’ The 24 elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshipped God saying, ‘We give you thanks, O Lord God Almighty, the one who is and who was and is to come. Because you've taken your great power and reigned. The nations were angry and your wrath has come, the time of the dead that they should be judged, and that you should reward your servants, the prophets and the saints.’” That's the Church. "And those who fear your name, small and great, and should destroy those who destroy the earth. The kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ."
This is what happens at the sounding of the seventh trump at the appearance of Jesus Christ in the beginning and of this period called the Millennium, this thousand years that is pictured by the Feast of Tabernacles. The nations of this world come to an end, and God's Kingdom is established. And this is the scripture that points to that. Now Revelation 19 adds another thought that is critical to this, as Revelation 19 describes the appearance of Jesus Christ and His return, and it says in verse 7, a break to that thought, “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His wife has made herself ready.” The marriage of the Lamb has come, Christ as the lamb. His wife is the Church portrayed as a woman back in Revelation 12, a persecuted woman, different from the woman of Revelation 17 that rides a beast. This is the Church who has made herself ready. This verse tells us what is being done today.
The Church, the wife, is being made ready. It's interesting to just look at the way that it puts it, and says that the wife has made herself ready. When Christ appears, the job of preparation of the wife or the Church for this time of a wedding to the Lamb is complete, and it's ready to take place. A work that has been going on for a long, long period of time. In fact, a work that is going on right now. Christ is making that Church ready right now.
I focused on this verse recently and I've asked a few times as I have talked about it, “If this is being done today, are we a part of the process right now?” Are you? Am I? Are we collectively a part of what is described here in verse 7 as the Church, the wife being made ready? We either are or we're not is what it boils down to. We're either in or we're out because this one verse summarizes a lot of other verses that describe what Christ is doing. Christ, the head of the Church, making ready the Church, the spiritual body, His body, a temple described in other places to which He is going to come, and He will join Himself in a spiritual union with the resurrected saints as described here in this verse. And that when it happens, the Church is ready. The job is done and is being done now. Are we a part of it? We're either in or out.
That should cause every one of us to just stop and decide, we better come to an answer on that question. We better find out if we're part of it or not because this describes something that's going to happen, it's a reality. Either this verse is true or it's not, either the book of Revelation is true or it's not, and I happen to believe that it is. And this process is being done now. Which leads us again into a description of what's happening. In Daniel 2:44, there is a description of Daniel's interpretation of the great dream that Nebuchadnezzar had: four empires, and then a description of a fifth empire or a fifth kingdom. And it is a kingdom that is portrayed by a stone cut without hands, striking this image on its ten toes. Let's jump right to verse 44.
“In the days of these kings,” these other four kings, “the God of heaven,” Daniel tells the king, “will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, and the kingdom shall not be left to other people.” It shall not be left to other people. God will set up a Kingdom that will never be destroyed. It will stand forever. It will consume all the previous kingdoms. But it will not be left to other people. Who are those people? Who are those people? It's mentioned again in chapter 7, where this image or the meaning of this dream is expanded through a dream that Daniel had, again it's expanded to include other beasts but I want to jump down to verse 22, where Daniel sees in his dream what is a scene of the throne of God.
Daniel 7:22, “And the Ancient of Days came and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom,” for the saints to possess the kingdom. We're told back in Daniel 2:44, that the kingdom will not be left to others. Here we're told that the saints will possess the kingdom. Down in verse 27, it's mentioned again, “The kingdom and dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. This kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominion shall serve and obey Him.” That kingdom to come, but these two prophecies speak of will be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. It won't be given to the same people that have ruled in the kingdoms of this world, the kingdoms that will be replaced as Revelation 11 showed us, by the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.
The saints, the people of God also called the elect, the Church. What we are part of today is described in these two prophecies. How are we doing? If it's not going to be left to others and it's going to be left to people who are in the Church, who will be a part of that resurrection, who will then inherit the Kingdom and reign and rule with Christ for a thousand years? How are we doing? How are we doing? In Matthew 16:18, Christ said to Peter about the Church, that “I will build My Church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” The meaning of that verse is not defensive. Too often we have mistranslated or misunderstood that verse. The translation is correct but we've misapplied it. We've had a bad hermeneutic. Because it is not a defensive verse. It's really an offensive verse.
The gates suggest the picture of a fortress or a prison which lock in the dead and keep out those who have come to rescue the dead. The Church, the Church that Christ would build, and the real meaning of that verse implies the Church is on the offensive and its Master will plunder the domain of Satan. And the Church has to be on the offensive. That's really what that verse is talking about because the body of Christ is the Church, and Christ is the head of the Church. Now we used to have a booklet back in the days, the good old days, "A World Held Captive." It was rather a nice creative piece of work, had a globe and overlay on the cover of a set of bars showing the world held captive. It was a very good illustration of this idea that the world is held captive by Satan who is called in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “the god of this world.”
The same God who tempted Jesus and said, "If you'll bow down and worship me, I will give you all the kingdoms that you see." And He said, "Get you behind me, Satan." He is the god of this world. And Christ said, "I will build My Church." The Church that Jesus heads is composed of those who are called out of this world and will not worship Satan, who will not bow down to Satan any more than Jesus Christ did, who have decided it's over. The Church is composed of people who have made the decision to worship Christ and no longer bow the knee to Satan or Baal. And they strive against Satan's world and they overcome it. They overcome it. The Church is composed of those who are called now to learn God's way of life. The Church is composed of those who, by coming out of this world, develop a godly, divine character.
That's what the Church is. The Church in this age is the place where God places those who are called to prepare for a role in the coming age, this coming epoch that we've been talking about pictured by the Feast of Tabernacles, to bring solutions to mankind. The Church is composed of people to whom the Kingdom will be turned over as we just read in Daniel 2:44. That's who the Church is. The Church is composed of people who will fulfill what Revelation 20 verses 4-6 described as living and reigning with Christ for a thousand years. Our calling today is for the purpose of preparing to be with Christ as He begins that next phase of God's salvation plan. That's why we're called. That's why we have the knowledge that we do. And that's where the Feast of Tabernacles comes in as an integral part of that preparation.
In Luke 19, Jesus gave a parable of the talents, or called the parable of the minas. “And He said, ‘The Kingdom of God is like a man going off into a far country. And He gave certain talents to His servants and He said, "Do business till I come."’” Do business till I come. And it's a very telling and instructive parable for the Church today. He gave it as He was entering Jerusalem and the throngs felt that He was going to restore the kingdom to Israel at that time, and He gave that parable to show them that it wasn't going to happen then. That there was going to be a gap and we're still in that gap. And we are in the process of preparing for that coming kingdom when the Master returns. That’s what that parable shows. And we have talents to develop. We have gifts to use. We have time to prepare. That's what the Church is to do. And that's why we come together, and that's why the Church on the offensive with people rightfully seizing the Kingdom in this world is as important as it is.
If the Feast of Tabernacles foreshadows the time of Christ's reign on this earth, then brethren, do we see our calling? Do we see our calling to prepare for that time? If the Church is the spiritual body of Christ, where the elect are being prepared as the bride of Christ, then how are we doing? How are we doing? If the saints are to take the Kingdom, are we ready? If we are to receive it, if it is going to be given to us, as opposed to other people that Daniel's prophecy describes—it will not be left to other people. I've always read that and I thought "Wow," in just a turn of a phrase is volumes of description about the Church and the work of the Church and the people and us and those that have gone before and those who will come after; the Church, the elect, that predestined group of people. That's where that ancient prophecy, given more than 2,500 years ago, where God gave this this colorful image to Daniel down through history, into our day and beyond. That's where we fit.
And God has been preparing it all along. It's been prepared from before the foundation of the world. If the Kingdom is not going to be left to others but to us, then are we prepared to do a better job than those today who hold the reins of power in this age? We certainly can. We can if we are overcoming, if we are using God's Spirit, if we are using the spiritual gifts that God gives to us, we can. God will know. This life, this time now is a preparation. Think now about your mindset going into the Feast of Tabernacles.
Let's go back to the comment that I had at the beginning from Edward Gibbon about the Church. “When the edifice of the church was almost completed, the temporary support was laid aside and the doctrine of Christ's reign upon the earth was considered doubtful and as a useless opinion and rejected.” That happened to people and that happened gradually over a period of time, and it was laid aside.
We don't want to lay aside any part of the truth of God but certainly not what the Scriptures about the Feast of Tabernacles and the millennial reign of Christ teach us. We don't want to forget, we don't want to lay it aside. Which brings us back then to the time we have between now and the Feast of Tabernacles to prepare ourselves and our lives and our minds, to come before God to keep the Feast in the right way, wherever we may go. Some will not travel too far to keep the Feast for health or age or financial reasons. Some will travel quite extensive distances. My wife and I will be one of those this year that will have that opportunity. Wherever we go, however exotic the site is, however less than exotic it might be—wherever we go, let's rejoice. Let's go, recognizing that we are a part of this group of people to whom God is going to turn over the Kingdom. And we go to the Feast of Tabernacles to get a foretaste, a shadow of things to come, a foretaste of the world tomorrow, as they both mean the same thing.
And let's go to rejoice, and let's put God first, and let's enjoy what it is that God has blessed us with. And let's share it among ourselves and let's share the good spirit and the good understanding and, yes, the physical blessings, always keeping uppermost in our mind that the Feast of Tabernacles pictures a time when Christ has intervened to replace the kingdoms of this world and to turn over that coming Kingdom to a different people, the saints who have prepared through a lifetime of overcoming. And you and I have a part in that. And let's live our lives not just leading up to and during the Feast, but let's use the Feast as a catapult into the future of the coming months beyond that to seize the Kingdom of God, to take that Kingdom because the Church will take it. We will take it from the hands of God, as He gives it to us.
It's not that we're going to create it ourselves and anything that we do. God will give it to us, but He will give it to those who, through a lifetime of overcoming, have developed character, godly character, and have shown that they can stand in and step in and, for the good of those who will come, begin to work with Christ to take that next step in God's plan of salvation to the nations and to all who have ever lived. That's why we go. That's why it's important. That's why our calling today is so valuable and so important to us. So let's prepare, let's plan, let's get our hearts ready. Let's get all the other preparations ready. Most importantly, let's get our hearts ready and let us go up and let us keep the Feast.
Be careful driving home tonight. And the next Bible study will be in two weeks, and we'll finish the series with that of the Eighth Day at that time. So we will see you then. Good night, everyone.