A Feast for the Ages
Login or Create an Account
With a UCG.org account you will be able to save items to read and study later!
Paradise Found!: A Feast for the Ages
Wouldn’t you love to live in paradise? For a lot of people this evokes images of a tropical beach or some other beautiful, lush setting with perfect conditions—the word paradise having come to mean an ultimately pleasurable environment. Others think of an idyllic pastoral life of plenty, safety and contentment. A great many apply the term to a place of future happiness, typically thought of as an afterlife in heaven.
Some envision having all their questions answered and curiosities satisfied. Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges said, “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” Still others hearing the word might imagine a manmade utopia on earth—a perfect civilization of harmony and peace that, as many have dreamed, people will somehow bring about.
The various conceptions of paradise have their roots in man’s first home in the biblical Garden of Eden. The word paradise is of Persian, or ancient Iranian, origin—pairi-daiza meaning a walled-in area and used to describe an enclosed garden or royal hunting ground.
The Old Testament Hebrew word pardes, referring to an orchard or park, came from the Persian language. Both this word and the Hebrew gan, meaning garden, were rendered in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament with another derivative of the Persian word, the Greek paradeisos. This word entered Jewish and Christian usage for the Garden of Eden. It also occurs in the New Testament.
Throughout history man has yearned to recapture what was lost in Eden. Will that desire ever be realized? As we will see, God has given a powerful reminder that reaffirms the answer to this question every year.
Adam and Eve were placed in the luxuriant garden in the land of Eden with work to do, to tend and keep it. The first human beings were, in the beginning, at peace with nature, evidently not fearing bad weather or wild animals. However, something happened in that garden that forever changed the course of human history!
The garden had trees of all kinds, including two that were real fruit-bearing trees but also symbolic. One was the tree of life, the means to human beings’ ultimate destiny of eternal joy as spirit beings in the family of God.
The other was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which symbolized human beings determining right and wrong for themselves rather than according to what God said. The first man and woman tragically listened to Satan and ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. They were banished from the garden and cut off from the tree of life. Mankind has followed in wrong ways ever since.
The 17th-century epic poem Paradise Lost by John Milton, first published as 10 books and soon after arranged as 12, recounts the sin of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from the garden. It also focuses on the rebellion of Satan and the demons, which eventually led to the temptation in Eden. Milton presents Satan as an ambitious and proud being who defies his Creator, the omnipotent God, and wages war in heaven, only to be defeated and cast down.
In the opening of Book 1, a long, twisting sentence mirroring the epic poetry of ancient Greece invokes the “Heavenly Muse” (the Holy Spirit), presents the author’s theme of “man’s first disobedience” and the “loss of Eden,” and states that his aim is to “justify the ways of God to men.” Satan and the other rebel angels are described as lying on a lake of fire, from where Satan rises up to claim hell as his own domain, delivering a rousing speech to his followers declaring, “Better to reign in Hell than serve in heaven.”
In Book 12, at the very end, the angel Michael leads Adam and Eve from the garden. Paradise has been lost. The poem ends, “The world was all before them, where to choose their place of rest, and Providence their guide: They hand in hand with wandering steps and slow, through Eden took their solitary way.”
Many religious people have looked on this epic poem as approximating in certain regards what actually happened in the temptation and sin of man. And in spite of a number of serious misconceptions, there is a lot of truth and remarkable insight in what Milton wrote.
Just before the poem’s ending, reference is made to the Messiah, “the Promised Seed [who] shall all restore.” Indeed, Scripture speaks of paradise being restored to the earth, with conditions similar to what the Garden of Eden was meant to be.
The plan of restoration and God’s festivals
Does God plan for a return to paradise? Will man be brought back to close fellowship with God in an Eden-like setting? Will the devil’s corruption of man be overturned?
God’s plan for the redemption and salvation of mankind is revealed through a series of festivals and Holy Days He commanded His people to observe. These are listed in Leviticus 23.
First is the weekly Sabbath, which itself pictures a time of spiritual rest and rejuvenation at the end of thousands of years of toil. God also gave seven annual festivals—starting with the Passover, which pictures Christ’s sacrifice to free us from death, and culminating later in the year with the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles and the following Eighth Day, which together point to a true paradise to come.
In supreme love, God wants to rescue us from our corruption and restore us to the joy He intended for us—that of paradise.
The Feast of Tabernacles is also called the Feast of Ingathering (Exodus 23:16; Exodus 34:22). On a physical level this signified rejoicing in the abundant agricultural harvest in Israel in late summer and early fall. But on a spiritual level, we celebrate God bringing in a great harvest of human beings (see Luke 10:2; John 4:35)—people who will become part of His spiritual family. Following Christ’s return will come the greatest time of salvation harvest ever, with blessings and abundance overflowing.
After a terrible time of devastation will come a time of peace, joy, abundance and restoration under the rule of Jesus Christ—a time of paradise. Notice: “So they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden; and the wasted, desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited’” (Ezekiel 36:35, emphasis added throughout).
This restoration will begin at Jerusalem: “For the Lord will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her waste places; He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in it” (Isaiah 51:3).
Many other Bible passages show that these wonderful conditions will be extended around the globe—“a wonderful feast for all the people of the world” (Isaiah 25:6, New Living Translation). Mankind will then experience “the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21).
You are living on the very edge of events that will usher in the development of a true, godly paradise for the entire world! The stage for paradise is being set.
In fact, the setting of the stage has long been underway. God’s plan to save mankind through Christ was laid out “before time began” (2 Timothy 1:9). God’s festivals, which picture His plan and its culmination, were even an integral part of His setting in order the very heavens.
These festivals are a powerful reminder of the awesome plan God is working out. And the culminating fall festival season especially reminds us of the future paradise of the Kingdom of God on earth.
God wants us to have this reminder, and throughout biblical history He repeatedly affirmed its importance. To see that, we will now look in chronological order at distinct periods of observance of the Feast of Tabernacles, along with the Eighth Day, as pointing to future paradise. Recognize that rejoicing in these days affords a small foretaste of the paradise ahead.
The Feast of Tabernacles observed by Moses and Israel
In Leviticus 23, we see God outlining His festivals to be observed annually, culminating with the Feast of Tabernacles and Eighth Day:
“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying: “The fifteenth day of this seventh month [corresponding to September-October] shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the Lord. On the first day there shall be a holy convocation [or commanded assembly] . . . [And] on the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation . . . It is a sacred assembly’” (verses Leviticus 23:33-36).
They were to use tree branches to construct tabernacles or booths, temporary structures, to stay in during these days to picture when the Israelites left Egypt (Leviticus 23:40-43). This time of great rejoicing each year was sometimes just called “the feast of the Lord” (Leviticus 23:39) or more simply “the Feast.”
Note that all the festivals here are “the feasts of the Lord” (Leviticus 23:2, Leviticus 23:4, Leviticus 23:44). God declares, “These are My feasts” (Leviticus 23:2). As His festivals, they are intended for all humanity, not just Israel or the Jews, as many now think. Yet Israel, chosen to set an example for the nations, was specifically directed to keep these festivals.
The Israelites afterward observed the Feast of Tabernacles for centuries, though with varying degrees of faithfulness. The temple in Jerusalem was even dedicated when the Israelites assembled with Solomon at the Feast in the seventh month (1 Kings 8). And it didn’t stop there.
Let’s now move forward in time.
The Feast observed after the Jewish return from Babylon
Long after the Israelites split into two nations, Israel in the north and Judah in the south, both nations ended up being deported, the southern Jewish nation taken to Babylon. Then after Babylon was conquered by the Persian Empire, a remnant of Judah returned to the land and continued to keep God’s festivals.
The Persian king Cyrus gave the Jews permission to go back and rebuild the temple (Ezra 1). On arriving, “They also kept the Feast of Tabernacles, as it is written” (Ezra 3:4).
Another group returning decades later discovered that they “should dwell in booths [or tabernacles] during the feast of the seventh month” (Nehemiah 8:14), and so they kept the Feast more fully, “and there was very great gladness” (Nehemiah 8:17, see also Nehemiah 8:13-18).
It was important that the people continued in keeping this great celebration that gives a foretaste of rejoicing with God in paradise. But did this end with the ancient Israelites? Let’s move forward in time again.
The Feast observed by Jesus
In the Gospel of John we see that Jesus Christ observed the great fall festival days: “Now the Jews’ Feast of Tabernacles was at hand . . . Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught . . . [And] 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 . . .’” (John 7:2, John 7:14, John 7:37).
Jesus referred here to God’s Spirit as “living water,” anticipating this pathway to eternal life, the fruit of the tree of life, becoming available to all mankind (John 7:38-39).
Christian believers clearly have a connection to this festival and its meaning. So did its observance end with Jesus and His crucifixion? Many will tell you that it did! They will say the biblical festivals are no longer required to be observed. But let’s keep moving ahead in time.
The Feast observed by the New Testament Church
The New Testament Church has a rich heritage of faith in observing these days—for the past 2,000 years even to our time! The example left by Jesus and the first-century Church of God is our model. We must do likewise.
The apostle Paul, in a hurry to travel, had to leave from synagogue discussions in Ephesus to keep the Feast. He said,
“I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing” (Acts 18:21).
While many claim the italicized phrase should not be here, as some of the ancient New Testament manuscripts don’t have it, the words do appear in the majority, and many scholars agree that Paul went to Jerusalem in verse 22, likely for a feast. Many reckon the feast here to have been Tabernacles, although others think it was the spring feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread.
In any case, we do know that Paul was observing the biblical feasts in general. Several chapters later we see that he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem on Pentecost (Acts 20:16). And He told Christians in Greece to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread along with the Passover with understanding of their spiritual meaning (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).
As The Encyclopaedia Britannica confirms, “The first Christians . . . continued to observe the Jewish festivals [actually God’s festivals], though in a new spirit, as commemorations of events which those festivals had foreshadowed” (11th edition, Vol. 8, p. 828).
In celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles and the Eighth Day that follows, the Church pictures the future time of prosperity, hope, peace, abundance, beauty, calm, joy and salvation for all mankind—paradise on earth under Christ’s coming reign. So will the observance end when He returns?
The Feast will be observed after Christ’s return
The prophet Zechariah foretold a time when all nations will observe the Festival of Tabernacles:
“And in that day His [Jesus’] feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two . . . And in that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem . . . And the Lord shall be King over all the earth . . . And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations . . . shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles” (Zechariah 14:4, Zechariah 14:8-9, Zechariah 14:16).
Yes, most definitely, the festivals of God will be kept after Jesus Christ’s return. And this will continue through His thousand-year reign over the nations (see Revelation 20:4), also known as the Millennium.
The last chapters of Ezekiel describe a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem and its service during that future age. Ezekiel 45 speaks of priestly duties then during Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Ezekiel 45:21-24), as well as at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles: “In the seventh month, on the fifteenth day of the month, at the feast, he shall do likewise for seven days” (Ezekiel 45:25). We learn in these chapters that God’s Sabbaths and feasts will be observed under Christ’s reign during the Millennium.
Imagine a time when everyone is keeping the Feast of Tabernacles! Imagine a time when all nations eventually repent and turn to God.
John Adams, America’s second president, wrote in his diary on Feb. 22, 1756: “Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God . . . What a Utopia, what a Paradise would this region be” (quoted by William Federer, America’s God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations, 1996, p. 5).
This will happen when Jesus is ruling from Jerusalem! Humanity will experience a thousand years of peace and prosperity. All nature will be at peace (Isaiah 11:6-9). And we’ve already seen how the world will be returned to an Eden-like state. It will truly be paradise on earth!
And it will not end with the Millennium. This time will be followed by the last judgment period, when all who have ever lived without sufficient understanding of God’s truth will be resurrected in the flesh to be given their first opportunity for salvation.
This future world of new opportunity is what Jesus referred to in answering the thief who was crucified next to Him. The dying man “said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today [that is, today I’m telling you] you will be with Me in Paradise’” (Luke 23:42-43).
The Eighth Day that follows the Feast of Tabernacles looks forward to this very time—and to the eternal future that follows.
God will bring ultimate paradise from heaven to earth
In God’s Kingdom, His people will tabernacle or dwell with Him. But it doesn’t end with the Millennium and the last judgment period. It projects beyond that into the time of a new heaven and new earth.
The apostle John writes in Revelation 21: “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away . . . Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people.
“God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away’” (Revelation 21:1-4).
In this wonderful city that will descend with God from heaven will be, as in the Garden of Eden, the tree of life, then available to the repentant nations (Revelation 22:1-2, Revelation 22:14). “And there shall be no more curse” (Revelation 22:3). The expulsion from paradise will be over.
Paul locates “Paradise” as currently in heaven, to where he was caught up in vision (2 Corinthians 12:4). But clearly this paradise will be brought to earth—in part during the Millennium and in full when the New Jerusalem at last comes down. This is the true paradise of God—of which the ancient Garden of Eden was only a physical type or model.
Here we see the full breadth of God’s master plan as revealed in His festivals. The Feast of Tabernacles memorialized dwelling with God while in this world from ancient to present times, yet as a small foretaste of a much greater fulfillment to come—in the Millennium and, in an ultimate sense, beyond into eternity.
Thus, the meaning of this great festival persists throughout all time—even after the present earth and heaven have passed away. The tabernacle of God will dwell eternally with God’s immortal children. This is when the ultimate paradise is found!
John Milton wrote a follow-up to Paradise Lost called Paradise Regained. It centers on the temptation of Christ, showing how Christ’s victory over sin and the devil restored opportunity to again be in a relationship with God.
This presents the pathway of Christ’s work toward redemption of mankind—repeated word play on reversals reinforcing the idea that everything lost in the first epic is going to be regained. But beyond this poem, the full picture—as revealed in Scripture and as truly understood only by God’s faithful followers who keep His festivals—is that paradise truly will be regained!
The holy festivals of God, ordained from the beginning of time and observed for all history—past, present and future—give us the amazing outline. This is why we are to observe the Festival of Tabernacles today. It’s our lifeline to understanding the plan of God. We are on the cusp of a great new age. We are forerunners in the life of paradise soon to come to the earth!
Over the centuries God’s faithful people have been exercising faith, looking forward to being made perfect and immortal when Christ returns—to being ultimately at one in paradise with God the Father and the Son forever.
As the risen Jesus proclaims: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7).
Why not join with us in keeping the Feast of Tabernacles today as a wonderful foretaste of that paradise that awaits?
God’s Festival Times Marked Out From Creation
In the biblical account of creation in Genesis 1, we are told that “God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years’” (Genesis 1:14, emphasis added throughout).
This might seem to only concern general timekeeping, but the Hebrew word rendered as “seasons” here, mo‘edim, is often translated as feasts or appointed times. Other Bible versions render the word in Genesis 1:14 as “religious festivals” (God’s Word Translation), “special days” (Contemporary English Version), “special meetings” (Easy-to-Read Version) and “sacred times” (New International Version).
Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible notes on verse 14: “For seasons . . . moadim; For the determination of the times on which the sacred festivals should be held. In this sense the word frequently occurs; and it was right that at the very opening of his revelation God should inform man that there were certain festivals which should be annually celebrated to his glory.”
And so we see the very first chapter in the Bible pointing to the way the heavens are set up to designate the appointments, or sacred festivals, of God. The very orbits of the heavenly bodies were established to enable all people to reckon the times of God’s festivals! The fact is, God intended all humankind to observe His festivals. They portray His plan of salvation for all.
To learn more, download or request our free study guide God’s Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind.