During this month—October—multiple thousands of people, a “little flock” (Luke 12:32 Luke 12:32Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
American King James Version×), are gathering in designated places around the world, all to observe the same biblical festival that Jesus kept just a few months before His crucifixion.
So what is this special festival, one that the Bible says that your descendants, perhaps even you yourself, will one day observe?
The Bible calls it the Festival (or Feast) of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:34 Leviticus 23:34Speak 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.
American King James Version×; Zechariah 14:16 Zechariah 14:16And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.
American King James Version×; John 7:2-52 John 7:2-52 2 Now the Jew’s feast of tabernacles was at hand. 3 His brothers therefore said to him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that your disciples also may see the works that you do. 4 For there is no man that does any thing in secret, and he himself seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world. 5 For neither did his brothers believe in him. 6 Then Jesus said to them, My time is not yet come: but your time is always ready. 7 The world cannot hate you; but me it hates, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil. 8 Go you up to this feast: I go not up yet to this feast: for my time is not yet full come. 9 When he had said these words to them, he stayed still in Galilee. 10 But when his brothers were gone up, then went he also up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. 11 Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he? 12 And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, No; but he deceives the people. 13 However, no man spoke openly of him for fear of the Jews. 14 Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. 15 And the Jews marveled, saying, How knows this man letters, having never learned? 16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. 17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. 18 He that speaks of himself seeks his own glory: but he that seeks his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him. 19 Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keeps the law? Why go you about to kill me? 20 The people answered and said, You have a devil: who goes about to kill you? 21 Jesus answered and said to them, I have done one work, and you all marvel. 22 Moses therefore gave to you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and you on the sabbath day circumcise a man. 23 If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are you angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day? 24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. 25 Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill? 26 But, see, he speaks boldly, and they say nothing to him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ? 27 However, we know this man from where he is: but when Christ comes, no man knows from where he is. 28 Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, You both know me, and you know from where I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom you know not. 29 But I know him: for I am from him, and he has sent me. 30 Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come. 31 And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ comes, will he do more miracles than these which this man has done? 32 The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him. 33 Then said Jesus to them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go to him that sent me. 34 You shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither you cannot come. 35 Then said the Jews among themselves, Where will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go to the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles? 36 What manner of saying is this that he said, You shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither you cannot come? 37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink. 38 He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39 (But this spoke he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) 40 Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet. 41 Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? 42 Has not the scripture said, That Christ comes of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was? 43 So there was a division among the people because of him. 44 And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him. 45 Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said to them, Why have you not brought him? 46 The officers answered, Never man spoke like this man. 47 Then answered them the Pharisees, Are you also deceived? 48 Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? 49 But this people who knows not the law are cursed. 50 Nicodemus said to them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) 51 Does our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he does? 52 They answered and said to him, Are you also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee rises no prophet.
American King James Version×), literally the Festival of Booths (Sukkot in Hebrew). This annual festival season represents the capstone of God’s plan for humanity. Its modern observance eloquently underscores the temporary nature of our sojourn here as fragile humans, looking always to the magnificent and joyous coming Kingdom of God!
In ancient times the Israelites would take palm and tree fronds and make for themselves temporary dwellings (Leviticus 23:40 Leviticus 23:40And you shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.
American King James Version×). They would live apart from their typical dwelling for eight days, symbolizing the transient and frail nature of their lives.
A festival that pictures the Kingdom of God on this earth
After Jesus came “preaching the gospel [the good news ] of the kingdom of God” (Mark 1:14 Mark 1:14Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
American King James Version×), the spiritual door of deeper understanding was opened to better comprehend what the prophets sought—indeed, “things which angels desire to look into” (1 Peter 1:12 1 Peter 1:12To whom it was revealed, that not to themselves, but to us they did minister the things, which are now reported to you by them that have preached the gospel to you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.
American King James Version×).
The Bible teaches, even as Jesus and His disciples observed, that the annual Holy Day seasons of God all possess rich and relevant meaning for each one of us. Beginning in the spring season (northern hemisphere) with the Passover and seven Days of Unleavened Bread and proceeding straight through the year to the Festival of Tabernacles and the Eighth Day (sometimes called the Last Great Day), these days herald the grand and awe-inspiring plan that God has for every single one of us.
The phrase “kingdom of God” and the synonymous expression “kingdom of heaven” appear more than 100 times in the New Testament. It was a focal point of Christ’s ministry. Time and time again, Jesus commanded His disciples to “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33 Matthew 6:33But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.
American King James Version×). Why? Because no sorrow, no trial, no obstacle can or could stand up to the wonderful knowledge of what incredible eternal gift that God intends to bestow upon us. This Festival of Tabernacles represents nothing less than a foreshadowing of this powerful Kingdom of God being established on this earth! (Revelation 20:4 Revelation 20:4And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark on their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
American King James Version×).
Observed by many now—to be observed by all in the future
This same festival—kept faithfully year after year, decade after decade, century after century—pictures the great hope of all humanity when God the Father will directly engage in “bringing many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10 Hebrews 2:10For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
American King James Version×). It is this same festival that Jesus told His human family to observe (John 7:6 John 7:6Then Jesus said to them, My time is not yet come: but your time is always ready.
American King James Version×) and the same festival of which is prophesied that eventually “ all the nations…will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty” (Zechariah 14:16 Zechariah 14:16And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.
American King James Version×).
Today, as you read this during the days of October 13-20, thousands of members and families of the United Church of God are humbly yet joyously gathering at festival sites across the world to worship God and celebrate this coming divine Kingdom. They are following the example of their Elder Brother and Savior, Jesus Christ as well as the apostles and the apostolic Church. They have temporarily left their homes and are staying in hotels, lodges and campsites, which reflects the transient nature of human life. They are living the vision of what is surely advancing upon this earth, a time when the Almighty God will say openly to all, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalms 34:8 Psalms 34:8O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusts in him.
American King James Version×).
Members of the United Church of God openly celebrate this wonderful Festival . You may even see our members gather in your city or area. If you are near and so desire, you are welcome to sample or “taste” for yourselves a small portent of what this coming Kingdom of God will be like.
If you’d like to know more—and you should—please go online and order (or download) a copy of the free booklet God’s Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for all Mankind . One day soon, “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9 Isaiah 11:9They 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.
American King James Version×). This Kingdom is described as “good news” because it brings a final and complete end to suffering and the beginning of God-given eternal joy and gladness.
Yes, Jesus Christ kept the Festival of Tabernacles with an understanding and a deep joy over what it pictures. You too can understand the meaning of that same festival of joy, the festival representing a time when God brings eternal victory to all, the wonderful Festival of Tabernacles.