In early October my wife and I will join thousands of other Christians in a weeklong celebration. We’ll gather at locations from Argentina to Australia, from Canada to Cameroon, from Malawi to Mexico, in a biblical observance that’s been around for at least 3,400 years.
Although it will be a family time, with lots of family activities, greeting old friends and making new ones, our primary focus will be on learning more about God. We’ll hear a number of biblically oriented messages and presentations addressing what God is doing— right now, in the near future and throughout the history of mankind.
The celebration in which we’ll be participating is the biblical Feast of Tabernacles. Most who identify themselves as Christian have never heard of it. Although this feast is mentioned several times in the Bible, many have probably read right over the words with it never registering.
Yet Jesus Christ Himself observed this Feast, even risking death at the hands of His enemies to travel to Jerusalem to keep it (John 7:1-14 John 7:1-14 1 After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him.
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.
American King James Version×). The apostle Paul thought God’s festivals so important that he left the fledgling church in Ephesus, telling them, “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem” (Acts 18:21 Acts 18:21But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that comes in Jerusalem: but I will return again to you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus.
American King James Version×).
So why has so much of Christianity ignored the biblical festivals? Most take the position that these celebrations were only for the Jewish people or ancient Israelites—though God Himself proclaimed them “the feasts of the Lord” and said, “These are My Feasts” (Leviticus 23:2 Leviticus 23:2Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts.
American King James Version×, emphasis added throughout). God tells us they are His feasts, not those of some particular cultural, religious or ethnic group.
Some think these have no relevance at all to Christians. Yet the apostle Paul, using language plainly showing he was referring to another of God’s biblical feasts, told the mostly non-Jewish Christians in Corinth, “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:8 1 Corinthians 5:8Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
American King James Version×).
Are we missing out on a message from God? Yes. By ignoring His biblically mandated celebrations and observances, we have lost sight of what God is doing.
Only a few realize that these biblical festivals are a teaching tool God uses to reveal the great plan He is working out with human beings here below. For example, the first of God’s annual festivals is the Passover, when God directed that a lamb be slain (Exodus 12:3-14 Exodus 12:3-14 3 Speak you to all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house:
4 And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.
5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: you shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats:
6 And you shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.
7 And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.
8 And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.
9 Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the entrails thereof.
10 And you shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remains of it until the morning you shall burn with fire.
11 And thus shall you eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD’s passover.
12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD.
13 And the blood shall be to you for a token on the houses where you are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.
14 And this day shall be to you for a memorial; and you shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; you shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.
American King James Version×; Leviticus 23:4-5 Leviticus 23:4-5 4 These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which you shall proclaim in their seasons. 5 In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’s passover.
American King James Version×). What did this signify?
John the Baptist recognized that Jesus was “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29 John 1:29The next day John sees Jesus coming to him, and said, Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.
American King James Version×)—making it possible for us to be saved from eternal death. Paul understood that Christ was “our Passover, [who] was sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7 1 Corinthians 5:7Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
American King James Version×).
The first and most foundational step in God’s plan of salvation, “foreordained before the foundation of the world,” was that we could be redeemed by “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-20 1 Peter 1:18-20 18 For as much as you know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
20 Who truly was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
American King James Version×). Similarly, God’s other festivals go on to reveal the other major steps in His great plan through which He is working with mankind.
In this issue we examine how God’s feasts reveal how He will at last bring about the kind of world for which man has always hoped and dreamed—a world in which suffering will be no more.
Visit our Web site at www.ucg.org/feast if you’d like to learn more about the upcoming Feast of Tabernacles. Perhaps we’ll see you there! GN