Have you ever heard of the Feast of Tabernacles? Did you know that Jesus Christ celebrated it in the ﬁrst century? Did you know that, even today, thousands of Christians follow His example by observing it every year?
There is great signiﬁcance to the Feast of Tabernacles for Christians today. We’ll take a look at what this festival means and why it’s so important to God that you observe it too.
God tells us that we have a special appointment with Him at the Feast of Tabernacles—a unique invitation to a personal meeting with Him!
We’ll examine why thousands of Christians the world over take time off of work and away from school to gather together, staying in temporary dwellings, to worship God and Jesus Christ. We’ll see how this biblical festival holds incredible meaning for all of mankind!
A vision of God’s Kingdom
Three of Jesus’ disciples were part of a life-changing event that’s recorded in the Gospels. You might be familiar with what happened, but most people don’t realize that it actually has everything to do with the Feast of Tabernacles.
Let’s notice the details of the event commonly called the Transfiguration. One day Jesus was talking to His disciples and said something incredible: “Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power” (Mark 9:1).
No doubt they didn’t know how soon Jesus’ words would come true! “Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain . . . and He was transfigured before them. His clothes became shining, exceedingly white . . . And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles’” (Mark 9:1-5, emphasis added throughout).
What an amazing event! In a vision, these disciples were suddenly whisked into the future to see Jesus Christ in His glory in His Kingdom!
Don’t miss Peter’s reaction. What did Peter associate with this vision? He said that they should make tabernacles.
What does that have to do with anything? Peter clearly related the Feast of Tabernacles to the idea of a tabernacle or a temporary dwelling. Why does this matter to Christians today? To answer that question, let’s look at a bit of background information.
A commanded celebration
In giving His laws to Moses, God said: “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. On the ﬁrst day there shall be a holy convocation . . .’” (Leviticus 23:34-35).
You may be thinking that this is just an Old Testament thing for the Jews. It’s not. It’s a Christian thing! Do you realize that your Savior, Jesus Christ, set the example of observing this feast?
The book of John records this about Jesus and His brothers going to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles: “But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, ‘Where is He?’ . . . Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught” (John 7:10-11; John 7:14).
Did you notice that everyone expected Jesus to be at the Feast of Tabernacles? Why? Because it was His lifelong practice to celebrate God’s festivals as required in God’s laws. Even when His life was threatened, He went to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles!
You see, Christ knew that this was a commanded yearly celebration, and it wasn’t intended just for the Jews. Leviticus 23 rightly calls the occasions listed here “the feasts of the Lord” (Leviticus 23:2). They weren’t just feasts for Israel or celebrations just for the Jews. Jesus set the example by showing they were for everyone and that they continue to be God’s festivals.
The early Church continued in Jesus’ example of celebrating the feasts. He celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles every year and taught about its great signiﬁcance. Scripture instructs us that, as His followers, we are to walk as He walked—to live as He lived (Isaiah 25:6-7).
When God says we are to celebrate the feasts, He uses a Hebrew word that means “appointed times” or “appointments.” Do you realize that God has set up a number of appointments with you to keep? These are also called “holy convocations” or “sacred assemblies.” Jesus knew that we can learn valuable lessons by meeting, fellowshipping and observing the Feast together.
God tells us that we have a special appointment with Him at the Feast of Tabernacles. Now imagine that! God has given us all a unique invitation to a personal meeting with Him!
Why a celebration of tabernacles?
In order to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, God told the Israelites to do something that may seem strange to us. They were to observe the Feast with “tabernacles.” What does that mean?
A “tabernacle,” or “booth,” as it is also called, is a temporary sheltering structure, such as a tent or similar temporary dwelling. So the Feast was to be observed by leaving home and staying in such a dwelling.
Why is this part of celebrating the festival?
God said that it’s “so that generations to come may learn how I made the people of Israel live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt” (Leviticus 23:42-43).
Today, Christians observe the Feast by staying in modern temporary dwellings and assembling together to worship God and to hear the Bible being preached and taught.
Temporary dwellings remind us of part of the spiritual signiﬁcance of the festival—that life is ﬂeeting. We are strangers and pilgrims on this earth. That’s powerful symbolism! It points out that this world isn’t our real home—that we’re really citizens of God’s Kingdom.
Peter used this analogy when he thought back to that glimpse of Jesus Christ in his spiritual glory in the Kingdom of God at the transﬁguration: “I consider it my duty, as long as I live in the temporary dwelling of this body, to stimulate you by these reminders” (2 Peter 1:12, J.B. Phillips New Testament).
Peter made the connection between the Kingdom of God and temporary dwellings! The Feast of Tabernacles reminds us of the temporary nature of our physical life, and it helps us to focus on what’s permanent—our goal for eternal life in God’s Kingdom.
A celebration of God’s care for us
Another lesson of the Feast is “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” (Leviticus 23:43).
This hearkens back to Israel wandering in the barren desert—coming out of the present world to sojourn with God under His protection. In those harsh conditions, Israel had to totally depend on God. So what did God do? He was faithful to provide all of their needs. He quenched their thirst with clean water, He fed them with manna from heaven, and He even gave them quail to eat. It all showed His love and concern for His people when they needed Him most.
God’s great care for Israel should remind us of the great care God gives to us. We have the Creator and Sustainer of the universe providing for our daily needs. He takes specific interest in our lives. Beyond that, He provides what we needed most—a Savior who can give us eternal life. Christians should absolutely celebrate and honor our faithful God, who provides everything that we need.
The Feast itself is another thing God gives us as He provides for us spiritually. God says we shall gather to worship Him—and anything that God commands us is for our own beneﬁt. He assures us that all the celebrations He’s instituted are important to Him. Again, He says they are “the feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts” (Leviticus 23:2).
God’s festivals are part of how God cares for us by giving us special time to spend with Him. Jesus knew that we can learn valuable lessons by meeting, fellowshipping and observing these feasts together. It’s more than just a nice idea, more than an option, more than just good advice. God actually commands us to observe His Feast for our own good!
Isn’t it a blessing for God to give us a wonderful spiritual celebration that pleases and honors Him?
Celebrating a better world to come
We’ve covered some of the physical and spiritual concepts that observing the Feast of Tabernacles teaches us, like focusing on our real home in God’s Kingdom and God’s care for us in this life. But there’s one more lesson we can learn from this festival—and it’s the most important of all.
For the Israelites, the Feast of Tabernacles was a celebration of the large late summer and autumn harvest in the land of Israel. God blessed them with abundant crops. Behind the celebration of the harvest is an incredible spiritual lesson that foreshadows a large spiritual harvest. God has given us physical lessons to teach us spiritual truth.
This lesson points to why the feasts of the Lord are for all mankind, not just the Jews. The Feast of Tabernacles is a joyous time that pictures an ultimate joyous time after the return of Jesus Christ. Don’t you look forward to rejoicing when the current world, with all of its problems and tragedies, will be replaced by the prophesied Kingdom of God?
Jesus taught extensively about His Kingdom during his earthly ministry. When He returns, there will be a time of great spiritual harvest from every corner of the world as He brings the nations and peoples of the earth into the Kingdom of God to live under His righteous rule. The Feast of Tabernacles symbolizes that time when Jesus returns to directly rule the world for 1,000 years. It will be a time of unparalleled peace and harmony. It’s truly a wonderful reason to celebrate!
Bible prophecy tells us that “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” (Zechariah 14:16).
Imagine that: God tells us that the time is coming when the whole world will celebrate the Feast together!
At Christ’s return, the foundation will be in place for the restoration of all things to peace and harmony with God. The Feast of Tabernacles foreshadows a changed world when people will say: “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in his paths . . . 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 anymore” (Isaiah 2:3-4).
At that time everyone in all nations will join in this yearly festival gathering. All people will learn God’s way of love. Through receiving God’s Holy Spirit, they will then be able to internalize God’s perfect way. Humanity will at last be restored to a right relationship with the Creator.
Celebrate the Feast!
The Feast of Tabernacles pictures an incredible time. The symbolism in this unique Christian festival is astounding, and the lessons will change the way you think about God’s plan for your life. Celebrating the Feast gives us a glimpse of the world beyond today—an incredible preview of the age to come. Take time to learn more about it. Don’t miss out on this wonderful spiritual opportunity. I hope you’ll make celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles a powerful statement of your faith.
Don’t underrate the signiﬁcance of this festival in your life. You can begin to live God’s purpose for you today. Take this opportunity to be empowered by the Word of God and the special time set aside at the Feast of Tabernacles. It’s an important step in living a life in harmony with God’s way as you prepare for eternal life.