Imagine yourself standing on the most luxurious landscape on earth: fields brimming with rich, dark soil; green pastures that swell to nearby hills and sweep down into broad meadows where cows, horses and sheep graze in contentment and peace; hedgerows, strong and thick, interspersed with groves of scattered trees—some deciduous, some evergreen and many of them fruit trees.
Picturesque cottages dot the landscape. Distant villages are filled with children playing in the streets, grandparents sitting under their fruit trees sharing stories, laughing and singing songs with their families.
Barley, wheat and cotton fields are uniformly planted like a patchwork quilt. Terraced hillsides are planted with vines, mulberries, figs, oranges, lemons, tangerines, cherries and other delicious fruits, so heavily laden that they sometimes ripen before they can be picked.
On a rising knoll not far away, you see a scene of even more ravishing beauty. Lush gardens, orchards and groves of shade trees—among which wind silvery streams—surround a village on a hill. As you enter this luxurious park setting, you hear the voices of nightingales, goldfinches and thrushes while aromatic odors and colorful flowers captivate your senses.
It is just another perfect day in paradise. In fact, it is paradise—God's paradise on earth. This is a place of rest, a safe place, the place where you can commune with God without any obstructions, restrictions or threats.
If you were there today—and someday you likely will be—you might think you had died and gone to heaven! But in fact, this is even better. To human beings, this setting will be a paradise, a new Garden of Eden on this planet.
In truth, God has promised and guaranteed that one day this earth will become a worldwide Garden of Eden. This limited imagery can't begin to compare with the stunning beauty of that coming day.
Are you preparing for that day? God is. And so are His people.
The Feast of Tabernacles, a biblical celebration kept in the autumn in the northern hemisphere, at the end of the harvest season, helps to illustrate and prefigure that wonderful, utopian world tomorrow foretold in dozens of Bible prophecies.
God is the author of this great fall feast. To understand this feast and its significance is to understand the great hope and future God has in store for humankind.
Three harvest seasons of humanity
God's seven biblical festivals are contained within the three major harvest seasons of the Holy Land: the barley harvest, the later spring wheat harvest, and the great ingathering late summer and fall harvest.
God identifies the three major harvest seasons in Deuteronomy 16: "Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed" (Deuteronomy 16:16). The entire family generally observes the festivals of God, including women and children (see Nehemiah 8:1-12).
These three festivals symbolically portray humanity's salvation in successive stages. Each stage involves greater numbers than its predecessor. Let's explore these in their biblical order.
The early harvests
The first harvest season, the barley harvest, is the smallest, yet in a significant sense the greatest. Generally referred to as the Passover season, it includes the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This is the first spring harvest and is a lighter one, as the ripened barley is a relatively lighter-weighted grain than wheat.
Within the Passover/Unleavened Bread season is the wave-sheaf offering (Leviticus 23:10-14). This is where the significance of the lighter harvest comes into play: It represents only one man, the Son of man—Jesus Christ. He is the fulfillment of the wave-sheaf offering, as He was accepted by God after His resurrection on the very day the wave-sheaf offering was waved before God for its acceptance before the barley harvest could begin.
Just as the first of the annual harvest seasons began with the wave-sheaf offering, the first harvest of humankind for immortality in God's Kingdom began with Jesus Christ. Without this important beginning, the following two harvest seasons could never come about. Humanity's salvation is absolutely dependent on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (John 12:23-25).
The second harvest festival is called the Feast of Pentecost, this being the Greek word for "fiftieth," as the festival was held 50 days from the wave-sheaf offering, counting the wave sheaf as day one (Leviticus 23:15-17). In the Old Testament this festival is called the Feast of Harvest, Feast of Weeks or simply Firstfruits (Exodus 23:16; Deuteronomy 16:10; Numbers 28:26).
This feast represents the harvesting of the firstfruits in God's plan for humanity—including the Old Testament saints and those who throughout history have been part of the New Testament Church Jesus founded. The spiritual fulfillment of this Feast of Firstfruits began when God sent His Spirit to the original members of His Church—which, significantly, happened on the very day of the Feast of Firstfruits or Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).
This harvest of the human firstfruits continues until the return of Christ Jesus, when they are resurrected to eternal life as immortal spirit beings (1 Corinthians 15:50-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17). This is why the members of God's true Church are repeatedly called "firstfruits" in the Scriptures (see Romans 8:23; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:15; James 1:18; Revelation 14:4).
So far we have seen that the biblical harvest festivals represent the resurrection of Jesus Christ to immortality, followed by God's calling of those whom He places within His Church, who will be resurrected to immortality at Christ's return.
If we were to stop at this point, we would remain ignorant of the significance of God's final harvest festival: the Feast of Ingathering (Exodus 23:16). The very name gloriously defines the purpose of this great feast and offers the greatest hope to an otherwise hopeless humanity. How tragic it is that so few people understand and keep these feasts, and so remain ignorant of God's great plan and purpose for us!
The fall harvest season's festivals
God's Word likens Him to a farmer who patiently tends His crop, waiting for the right time to harvest. Notice James 5:7: "Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain" (emphasis added throughout). In His case, the "precious fruit of the earth" means human beings who will receive His wonderful gift of eternal life as members of His spirit family.
As wonderful as God's master plan of salvation as depicted through these three harvest seasons is, there is an end to His harvesting of humanity. That last season is fittingly summarized as the Feast of Ingathering.
The events signified by this final festival season are the great hope of humanity, including the multiple billions of people who died in vain, without hope, without a future. The numbers resurrected during this time of salvation will be staggering.
This harvest season actually includes four different festivals, all of them with distinct meaning. They are the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day.
Beginning of the world's transformation
The Feast of Trumpets is the first of the four festivals in this season (Leviticus 23:24). In the Bible, trumpets were used to sound an alarm of imminent war. And indeed, as the events depicted by these days unfold, the world will be gripped by devastating warfare (Matthew 24:6; Matthew 24:21-22; Revelation 6:4; Revelation 9:1-21).
But the sounding of trumpets depicts something else too—Jesus Christ's return to earth at the last trumpet to save, not destroy, humankind (Revelation 11:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:16).
If Christ did not intervene in human affairs at this point, tyrannical leaders would destroy the earth and humanity with it. "The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your name, small and great, and should destroy those who destroy the earth" (Revelation 11:18).
Again, Jesus is returning to save, not destroy, humanity. The Feast of Trumpets marks the first step God takes to ensure this great hope for humankind.
Daniel shows that God will not allow human governments to rule indefinitely. Christ will return to set up a world-ruling kingdom far greater than any human governments. "And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever" (Daniel 2:44).
The second festival within this season is the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27-32). It signifies another astounding event—the removal of Satan and the demons from their unseen, unrecognized rule over humanity (Revelation 20:1-3). As with evil human governments, so with evil spiritual influence: God removes all evil so the earth can receive God's peace.
Now we come to the third festival of this season, the Feast of Tabernacles. Next in the sequence of prophesied biblical events is the rule over the earth of Jesus Christ and the resurrected saints, given immortality at Christ's return (Revelation 20:4-6). Just as the Feast of Tabernacles was a time of joy and plenty in ancient Israel, so will the time it pictures—the millennial rule of Jesus Christ—be a time of joy and plenty for all of humanity.
Consider some of the astounding changes Christ will institute on earth as foretold in the Scriptures. Human beings will rebuild the places devastated by war and neglect (Isaiah 58:12). Effort that once went into creating weapons and munitions will now be channeled into peaceful, productive uses and humanity will no longer learn war (Micah 4:3).
People will enjoy private property and feel secure, unthreatened by governments or others who would steal from them (Micah 4:4). As people learn the advantages of living according to God's laws and way of life, peace and the knowledge of God will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9). With Satan gone, even wild animals will have a peaceful temperament (Isaiah 11:6-8).
The deserts will blossom like a garden of roses (Isaiah 35:1-2). The hills will appear to melt as fruit trees and vineyards ripen and bend to the ground with fruit. The plowman will overcome the reaper, the treader of grapes him who sows seed (Amos 9:13).
For 1,000 years, Christ will turn the earth into a worldwide garden of Eden. As Ezekiel 36:35 says: "This land that was desolate has become like the Garden of Eden; and the wasted, desolate, and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited" (compare Isaiah 51:3).
Christ's glorious Kingdom will be unprecedented in the annals of human history. This 1,000-year period will not end His righteous, peaceful rule, but will be preparatory to the events signified by the following biblical festival we call the Last Great Day.
The White Throne Judgment
Next in the order of biblically prophesied events, we see that Revelation 20:11-13 speaks of the White Throne Judgment, the time of salvation for all those as yet unconverted from the time of Adam and Eve until the second coming of Jesus Christ.
The White Throne Judgment is depicted by a separate Holy Day that immediately follows the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:36; Leviticus 23:39). This separate festival represents another distinct period that offers great hope for humanity, when all those many billions who never had their opportunity for salvation will finally receive it.
Revelation 20:6 refers to the resurrection of God's faithful servants to immortality at the return of Jesus Christ as the "first resurrection." A parenthetical inset in verse 5 explains that "the rest of the dead" are resurrected at the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ and the saints.
The "second" resurrection is different in that it is a resurrection to temporary physical life, not to immortal spirit life, as is clearly described in Ezekiel 37:1-14. Billions of people will be resurrected to round out God's great hope for humanity and conclude God's great ingathering feast season. They will then have an opportunity to repent, receive God's Spirit and ultimately His gift of salvation too.
Learn more, read our free Bible study aid booklet God's Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind.
Hope for the future guaranteed
Know this: The future of humankind, as portrayed by the fall festival season, including the Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day, has already been guaranteed. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the facts that ensure this.
The three major harvest seasons reveal to us God's master plan for saving all humanity through all ages. Although humanity faces increasing troubles on the horizon, God has not left us, or the billions who will follow us, without protection and great hope.
The fall Holy Day season guarantees the greatest hope for all mankind, a Feast of Ingathering when God sets His hand to save the remainder of humanity, numbering in the billions. If you would like the privilege of experiencing a foretaste of this time now, view the locations of Feast sites around the world. We hope you'll join us in enjoying this feast as a preview of the coming world tomorrow.